September 15, 2006

Lisa: Hashed

It is always a bit disturbing to discover you've been using a phrase incorrectly for decades. The phrase I have in mind today describes the little parallel counting marks one writes, usually in groups of five with the fifth mark crossing over the other four and sort of grouping them into a pleasing, easily counted bundle. What have I been calling these marks?

Hatch marks.

"Hatch marks" does not exist as a phrase at all. I don't know if I just made that up, or if it's related to "hatching" (the use of fine, parallel lines drawn closely together to create the illusion of shade or texture in a drawing), or what. The phrase I was probably originally going for was "hash marks," but both the sports meaning and the mathematical one ( though both dealing with parallel lines) are a bit of a stretch. It looks like the phrase I should have been using all along is "tally marks" (there's even a little picture there to seal the deal). I guess that does make sense, what with "tallying" meaning "counting" and all. And the term "tallywhacker" is suddenly more clear.

For extra learning power, "little counting marks" are actually called a "unary numeral system," and the five-mark bundles are referred to as a "five-bar gate." Try whipping those bad boys out at your next cocktail party.

Posted by lisa at September 15, 2006 05:50 PM

yeah, so i pretty much allways called them tallyies. And technically unary contains only ones, no diagonals, and such. we talked about it in CS (comp sci (computer science))

Posted by: Young Jeffrey on September 23, 2006 05:08 PM

Then you are one-up on me, Mr. Smartyboots.

Posted by: lisa on September 23, 2006 05:13 PM
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