Know Your Keyboard: Bang, Splat, Whack!

Bang! Splat! Whack!Most of us who frequent the wide world of the Web know a thing or two about the various letters, numbers, and symbols that proudly display themselves on our computer keyboards. You probably know most of these characters by the old-fashioned, everyday names you learned in grade school: the exclamation mark, the asterisk, the number sign, and so on. But did you know that many of these symbols can be called something quite different?

I now present a veritable Tour de Web of some alternate names for those good old symbolic standbys, including a handy Keyboard Slang table. You’ll be an expert in no time: soon you’ll be able to fool the folks at Slashdot and have something fun to think about the next time you tell a friend about h-t-t-p colon whack whack codejacked dot com.

Once More, With Feeling

Some of the best character nicknames come from the worlds that use them most: computer programming and the grand old land of publishing —- you know, of actual books, with paper. The next time you’re bored with a simple exclamation point, why not call it a bang (for computers) or a screamer (for typesetters)? Or how about the star or splat (asterisk), the oh-so-commonplace whack (forward slash), or some useful fingernails (parentheses, like these)?

If you’ve ever beaten on a piñata or sipped a piña colada, you’ve probably run into the friendly Spanish tilde. But the next time you need one, you’ll know it can also be officially called a twiddle or squiggle. When writing those long pages of HTML code, single out a backslash as a slosh or a pair of angle brackets as chevrons. The next time you record your voicemail message, tell your friends to reach you at your extension by pressing the publisher-favorite octothorpe key on their phones (that’s #).

Get Your Brit On

If you need to talk punctuation, you can also break out your inner James Bond and hop over to Britain for some fun punctuation alternatives. Where pounds are money, that same old octothorpe is called a hash sign, and the dot or period is a full stop. Double quotes will become inverted commas in your quick trip across the pond, and regular old braces {like these} will be called curly brackets. And if you want to get really fancy, try calling that ever-present “whack” slash a virgule, slant, or oblique.

Cool To Go

Alas, not all of us can be James Bond. But for your reference, here are the rest of my findings on keyboard slang, organized for you in this handy little table. This is by no means a complete list: feel free to add to, discuss, and/or ridicule the following names. You may never look at a keyboard the same way again!

Symbol Common Name Other Names
! exclamation exclamation mark/point,
* asterisk star,
/ slash stroke,
. period dot,
full stop (British)
# number sign pound sign,
hash (British),
| vertical bar pipe,
split bar,
divider line
~ tilde twiddle,
` acute grave,
back tick
^ caret circumflex accent,
apostrophe single quote,
prime mark
double quote inverted commas (British)
<> less than/greater than angle brackets,
{ } braces curly brackets (British)
( ) parentheses round brackets,
brackets (British),
[ ] brackets box/square brackets (primarily British)
\ backslash slosh
_ underscore understrike

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  1. Have you found a name for the “@” – other than the “at sign”?

  2. Hi John,

    Sadly, I haven’t been able to find any other name for the at sign. I think it’s just universal. But if you find one, let me know.

  3. A Linux teacher of mine in college referred to the underscore as an underbar.

  4. !*”#


    Waka waka bang splat tick tick hash,
    Caret at back-tick dollar dollar dash,
    Bang splat tick dollar under-score,
    Percent splat waka waka number four,
    Ampersand right-paren dot dot slash,
    Vertical-bar curly-bracket tilde tilde CRASH.

    from here:

  5. @ = amphora

  6. In Romanian, “@” is also sometimes called “monkeytail” ( coada de maimuta) or “arond” (=” a round”).

  7. \ is whack

  8. You forgot that ” ” are also called quotations.
    And is there another name for the paragraph symbol (¶)? I’m sure there is…

  9. / is whack, \ is back-whack, but lazy windows server admins call \ a plain whack

    # is a sharp, like from music, and is often shortened. Like the first line of a *nix script is the she-bang, or #!

  10. There is another one I’ve heard for the @, in India they say “at the rate of” (and imagine that with one of those Indian rolled r’s)

  11. The @ sign is called “meow” or “mrow” because it looks like a curled up sleeping cat.

    My poor kitty. #!ed her ^ on the | then @ed ((())).

    [_]o I sipped my coffee.

  12. The paragraph symbol (¶) is called a pilcrow.

  13. When I worked at Microsoft we always called the @ (at) symbol a splat, and the * (asterisk) symbol a star.

  14. The @ sign may be called a “strudel,” from the pastry it resembles.–from the Jargon File.

  15. I remember the ¶ from a private religious school, it’s plastered all through the bible. I thought it was called a flush, but I could be wrong. It’s been like… 20 years.

  16. peter@altenberg:-

    In india they call the @ = at the rate of bcoz,

    @ is normally used for interest specification. For ex: @10%p.a

    And i do not know which country you are from but i can definitely imagine the stupidity that you have.

  17. In india they call the @ = at the rate of bcoz,
    @ is normally used for interest specification. For ex: @10%p.a
    And i do not know which country you are from but i can definitely imagine the stupidity that you have.

    sorry, that was really stupid of me to know what they call the @ in India. Next time I’ll try to not be so stupid and and not state anything.

  18. my friends and i call { and } mustaches

  19. I’ve always heard the asterisk (*) called a bunghole.

  20. Yeah, at Microsoft they use / as slash and \ as whack. That way it’s one syllable for both. Also $ is cash.

  21. I have seen @ used for “each” as in 3@$1.00 meaning 3 items priced one dollar each.

  22. Empty parenthesis such as those following a parameterless function call [e.g. Add()] can be called a football.

  23. Hello –
    For parentheses: LEFT BANANA, RIGHT BANANA

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a snack.
    Best, Chuck Anderson

  24. I like to tack arguments onto command lines, like:
    ls tack a l
    ls -al

  25. In Peru, the @ sign is known as the Arroba

  26. I must be the only one that calls $ a string :(

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  29. I am familiar with some of these. Back when folks used fortran, I believe parentheses were also called bananas. So, an expression like (x + 3) in parentheses would be read “left banana, x + 3, right banana. I am unfamiliar with your fingernail alternative.

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  39. Hack and Slash were terms that were used for ‘\’ and ‘/’
    This is why the characters in the show Reboot were named this.

    Also I’ve heard the ‘$’ symbol referred to as a Bash.

  40. Thanks! But do note that acute and grave are two different things. What’s pictured above is a grave (è). The acute accent goes in the opposite direction: (é).

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  43. $ should be called ‘cha-ching’

    !\@#~$/-. = Bang Whack At Pound Squiggle Cha-ching Slash Dash Dot.

  44. also for ! – pling – from acron computers

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  46. can we get a nickname for the “colon”, please?

  47. “cinda wrote:

    can we get a nickname for the “colon”, please?”

    I call it a “co” as in cocoa. In IPv6 addresses there are a lot of colons so co is quicker to say, and when there are two of them in a row (which happens quite often) I call it a “dubco” ::

  48. @ is an ampersand, easier to call it “at”

  49. Speaking of keyboards, the IBM Model M was the master race when this article was written in 2006 and it’s still the master race now:

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