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15 Explosive Facts About Melrose Place

A spinoff of Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place debuted on Fox in the summer of 1992, ran for seven seasons (with most seasons consisting of at least 32 episodes, a figure unheard of today), and focused on a group of friends and foes living in a Los Angeles apartment complex located at 4616 Melrose Place.

According to Heather Locklear, the first season was “very boring. It was all nice people, and, really, there are some bad people in the world.” To beef up ratings in the second season, creator Darren Star—who went on to create Sex and the City—and co-executive producer Aaron Spelling brought in Locklear, and the show exploded. “There’s an old Noel Coward expression that fits,” Spelling told the Chicago Tribune. “To put a cat amongst the pigeons. We needed Heather to be the cat amongst the pigeons.”

Locklear played the conniving Amanda Woodward, and was nominated for four Golden Globes for her performance. She was effective enough for people to tune in each week to see what might unfold on the nighttime soap opera, whether it was an outrageous baby kidnapping plot, the apartment building exploding, or one of a number of scandalous affairs. The show went off the air in 1999, but its impact remains. Here are 15 mind-blowing facts about the series.

1. THE REAL MELROSE PLACE ISN’T LOCATED ON MELROSE PLACE.

Exteriors of the Melrose Place apartment complex were filmed at El Pueblo Apartments, at 4616 Greenwood Place, in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood. You can, of course, take a selfie in front of it, and possibly rent one of its eight units. The listing doesn’t mention a pool, though.

If you want to stroll down the real Melrose Place street—which does exist—you’ll start at the intersection of Melrose Place (which eventually intersects with Melrose Avenue) and La Cienega Boulevard. You won’t find residences (or drama), but you will find a hip and pricey shopping oasis, featuring Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta boutiques.

2. JOSIE BISSETT HATED PLAYING “NICE.”

Josie Bissett played Jane Mancini, Melrose Place’s resident nice girl. But Bissett wanted to be as bad as everyone else. “I do get tired of playing a victim all the time on the show,” she complained to Rolling Stone. “I mean, enough already. People call for me on the street and tell me everything that I’m doing wrong. In real life, I learn from my mistakes, and Jane is just not learning. But look out, because she will very soon.”

Apparently Bissett’s protest was received. “I remember Josie Bissett asking, ‘Can I please, please do something, like, a little devious? Do I have to be the nice one?’ I totally understood it,” Darren Star told Vulture. “You don’t want to be the character that’s being stepped on all the time.” By season three, Jane had become more villainous. “I think in the third season we had fun showing that all these characters had two sides,” Star said. “We made villains out of almost everyone.”

3. MANY OF THE CAST MEMBERS HOOKED UP WITH EACH OTHER IN REAL LIFE.

During the first season, Courtney Thorne-Smith (Allison Parker) and Andrew Shue dated, and later on in the series she dated Grant Show. “Show and Courtney Thorne-Smith were together and when they weren’t, we were all pretty sure that’s why she left the show,” Melrose Place writer/producer Charles Pratt Jr. told Vulture.

Though Laura Leighton also dated Grant Show, she ended up marrying Doug Savant in 1998. “We were friends on the set, but then it became, ‘Oh my God, this person I think is so perfect is right here,’” Savant told People. “The best thing that happened to me as a result of Melrose was meeting my wife.” A couple of other real-life couplings weren’t as successful: Josie Bissett divorced Rob Estes (they were newlyweds when the show started), and Locklear and Jack Wagner called off their engagement.

4. MATT FIELDING WAS ONE OF THE FIRST GAY CHARACTERS ON NETWORK TV, BUT HIS ROMANCE WAS CENSORED.

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It was progressive for a show in the early ’90s to feature a gay character (it would take Ellen DeGeneres, starring as Ellen Morgan on Ellen, until 1997 to come out as gay), but Matt’s personal plotlines could go only so far. Matt finds a boyfriend and wants to sleep with him, but according to Vulture, Fox was against having the men be filmed lying in bed together.

“One of them had to be in the doorway,” Melrose Place writer-producer Carol Mendelsohn said. “Then we wanted them to kiss on the beach near Michael’s house, and broadcast standards at the time would not let us have them kiss. Instead it was ‘Matt’s lover rubs his ear.’ Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in 20 years.”

Doug Savant, who played the role of Matt, didn’t want the media to know about his private life. “There are other straight actors who have played gay characters and then shouted their straightness to the media at every chance,” he told Rolling Stone. “I think that's disgraceful. I have the responsibility to play the common humanity that crosses boundaries of sexuality."

5. BILLY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED BY ACTOR STEPHEN FANNING.

In Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story, it showed how an actor named Stephen Dale—Stephen Fanning in real life—was hired to play Billy but was fired because he gained too much weight. But according to the 2012 ABC reunion special, Shue said the reason Fanning was let go was because the actor didn’t have the right chemistry with Allison. “No one told Stephen that he was let go,” Show said. “He showed up to work and Andrew was in his dressing room.” Shue joked, “I feel that I need to personally apologize.” (Fanning should not be confused with baseball player Steven J. Fanning, who is father to Dakota and Elle Fanning.)

6. VANESSA WILLIAMS THINKS SHE WAS FIRED BECAUSE THE SHOW DIDN’T “EQUIP THEMSELVES TO WRITE FOR A BLACK CHARACTER.”

Williams played dancer/aerobics instructor Rhonda Blair on the first season of Melrose Place, but she wasn’t asked back for season two. “I think they didn't make the effort to equip themselves [to write for a black character], either by hiring a black writer or asking me things,” she told TV Guide. “Then, the whole face of the show changed—no pun intended—to [Aaron] Spelling’s soap-opera formula. They raised the stakes in terms of the sexual content, so who was gonna jump in bed with the black girl and not raise a hair in middle America somewhere? So it was devastating to me as an actress not to be invited back, but I knew it had nothing to do with my work, so I just had to release it.”

7. AMY LOCANE ONLY LASTED ONE SEASON AS WELL.

Williams’s on-screen roommate Amy Locane, who played Shooters waitress/aspiring actress Sandy Harling, also only lasted one season on the show. In 2010, Locane struck and killed a 60-year-old woman with her car while intoxicated. In 2013, she was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to three years in prison. She was released early, in 2015.

8. GRANT SHOW TURNED DOWN PLAYING THE BRAD PITT ROLE IN THELMA & LOUISE.

Thelma & Louise came out in 1991 and made Brad Pitt a star. Melrose Place actor Grant Show told The New York Times that he was offered the role but had to reject the part because “I was doing 12 days on a Jackie Collins mini-series, and I had to turn it down because they wouldn’t let me out of my contract.” He thinks Pitt did a better job than he would have, but regrets not breaking his contract. “But what I’ve learned is, back then I didn’t realize that the game is played by my own morality and not theirs. If there is one thing I wish I could tell that young actor, it would be to walk off that set and say, ‘Sue me.’”

9. ANDREW SHUE THINKS THE REASON PEOPLE LOVED THE SHOW WAS BECAUSE EACH AIRING RESULTED IN “PARTIES.”

The original cast members—with the exception of Williams and Locane—reunited on ABC in 2012 to reminisce about their backstabbing days. In 2010 Shue married Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach, who interviewed Shue and the cast. When she asked Shue why fans had such an affinity for the show, he stated: “We weren’t catty, there were no divas. It really was a family. When you think about that show, people had parties. There’s never been a show where people would gather on a weekly basis and have parties. I think it was groundbreaking in that sense, and now everybody would be on their digital devices and so you could never have a party.”

10. THE 1995 OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING CAUSED THE SEASON THREE FINALE TO BE EDITED.

During the final moments of season three, “The Big Bang Theory,” crazy person Kimberly (Marcia Cross) is about to detonate Melrose Place, but then the screen cuts to “to be continued.” A month prior to the May 1995 finale, the Oklahoma City bombing took place. The episode was supposed to end with the denotation, followed by Kimberly flying through the air, Amanda falling down the stairs, and the courtyard blowing up. Viewers would have to wait until the fourth season premiere in September to see the explosion and to find out that (spoiler alert!) none of the main cast members died (though Allison did go blind—temporarily). Cross felt some remorse.

“I felt guilty in a way, as if I were perpetuating violence,” Cross told Entertainment Weekly. “But it’s a weird line—most people can distinguish the fact that our show has nothing to do with [the bombers] in Oklahoma.” According to Rolling Stone, though, the original concept involved Kimberly kidnapping Sydney, putting her in a plane, and flying the plane into the apartment courtyard. But when a plane used as a weapon crashed near the White House in 1994, the producers changed their minds about the ploy.

11. THE SHOW ENDED BECAUSE THE CAST OUTGREW THEIR DIGS.

“You could not believe after seven years these people, who had actually attained some stature in their careers and had some money, were living in that building,” Carol Mendelsohn told Vulture. “You tried to ignore it, but it would come up in the writers’ room all the time: ‘Why haven’t they moved?’” Dee Johnson, another Melrose Place writer/producer, said. “‘Amanda makes a ton of money. Why is she staying in that little apartment?’ In the end, it was unavoidable.”

12. MALCOLM GLADWELL WAS A SUPERFAN OF THE SHOW.

During a January 2016 interview with Bill Simmons on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker, admitted his love for the series. “I used to do an email synopsis of every episode of Melrose Place,” he said. “I had a list of, like, a 100 people that I’d send it out to. And why did I do that? Because I was absolutely sure that everyone I knew—all of us in our 20s or early 30s—was watching MP. There is not a single show that I would have the same certainty about today. The only thing that comes close was Serial last year.” Gladwell said he’d take two hours out of his workday to write up the newsletter, but said he wouldn’t go to so much effort today for just a network show. “It was a bad show,” he said. “Nobody would watch it today.”

13. PEOPLE PAID BIG MONEY FOR MELROSE PLACE POOL WATER.

According to The New York Post, before the show’s series finale aired, Fox sent out snow globes filled with MP pool water to journalists. Some of those globes sold for as much as $300 on eBay. Amazon.com got involved with auctioning off Melrose Place memorabilia, including Amanda’s headboard and Sydney’s wedding dress. Grant Show knew the series would last when he saw the pool. “The minute I walked on the set and saw that they’d built a real pool in here, I had the feeling we’d be around for a while,” he told Rolling Stone. “Forget about actors, man; pools aren’t cheap.”

14. ANDREW SHUE QUIT ACTING AND BECAME A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR.

In 2008, Shue co-founded CafeMedia, which hosts CafeMom, The Stir, MamásLatinas, and other popular websites. He founded CafeMedia with “the vision to create an organization that would celebrate and reward moms for all that they do each and every day,” according to his bio. Besides CafeMedia, Shue also sits on the board of Do Something, a youth leadership organization he founded in 1993.

15. IN 2009 FOX REBOOTED THE SERIES, BUT IT FAILED.

Thomas Calabro (Dr. Michael Mancini) starred in more episodes than any other cast member—219 out of 226—and was one of the few original cast members to appear on the reboot. Calabro told SheKnows why he wanted to reprise his role as Dr. Michael Mancini. “First of all, he had a nuclear family, which I had never ever played before. He had a twentysomething-year-old son, which I had never had … He was going to be intertwined in many of the main characters’ storylines. So that became really interesting to me. There was a whole new dynamic.” Before the show got canceled after one season, Laura Leighton, Heather Locklear, Josie Bissett, and Daphne Zuniga all made appearances.

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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The First Known Uses of 6 Common Typographic Symbols
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Many of the most common symbols on our keyboards have fascinating origin stories. Some, such as the zero, we now take for granted—yet the idea of denoting an absence of value was not present in Western mathematics until introduced from the East. Other symbols, such as the hashtag or at-sign, had a variety of uses until the internet ushered in a new way of communicating and fixed them with the meanings we know today. Below are six examples of the first known usage and subsequent history of some of the most common typographic symbols.

1. AT SIGN // @

The @ (or at-sign) is usually dated to 1536 in a letter from a Florentine merchant, Francesco Lapi, who used it to mean a unit of wine called “amphorae.” But a Spanish researcher claims to have found an even earlier usage in a 1448 document, where the symbol also referred to a unit of measurement (even today, Spaniards call the @ symbol arroba, which is also a unit of weight, and some other Romance languages have similar dual meanings). Either way, the researchers think that the symbol then moved to Northern Europe, where it eventually gained the meaning of “at the price.” Other explanations have also been offered, but whatever the exact root of the symbol, its meaning eventually became known as shorthand for at, and it was generally used in written financial transactions—for example, in noting “Bob sells James 4 apples @ $1.”

The sign had largely fallen out of use by the early 1970s, when computer scientist Ray Tomlinson was working at what is now BBN Technologies, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tomlinson, who was working for the government on a forerunner of the internet, was trying to figure out how to address messages sent from one computer to another when he noticed the little-used @ on his computer keyboard, and used it to send a prototype email. This precedent was soon adopted as the internet developed, and the at-sign is now, of course, central to our lives.

2. ZERO // 0

The absence of a value is a complex concept, one that many ancient civilizations struggled with. The idea of a zero ultimately came to the West from the mathematicians of India, where, as in a few other cultures, zero was initially used as a placeholder, for example to indicate a lack of units, as in the number 101.

The earliest surviving usage of a zero in India has been traced to an ancient mathematical text known as the Bakhshali manuscript, which is held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. In September 2017, radiocarbon dating indicated that the manuscript was produced as early as the 3rd or 4th century—providing us with the first known usage of zero some 500 years earlier than previously thought. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library says, “the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today."

The manuscript itself was discovered buried in a field in 1881 in what is today Pakistan. Written on 70 delicate leaves of birch bark, historians think it represents a training manual for Silk Road traders, teaching them concepts of arithmetic.

3. HASHTAG // #

Hashtag on an old typewriter key
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The origin of the hashtag (or pound sign as it's traditionally known in the U.S.) comes from scribes writing shorthand for the Latin libra pondo, which translates as "pound by weight." The abbreviation they used was lb, which was sometimes misread as 16. So, scribes took to drawing a line through the top of the two letters, which over time developed into the now familiar #. In the 1960s, the pound sign was chosen by Bell Laboratories to be a function key on their newly designed telephone keypad. (The Bell Labs team fondly nicknamed the symbol the “octothorpe,” possibly in honor of athlete Jim Thorpe.) Fast-forward to 2007, when early Twitter users wanted to be able to group and filter their feeds, so developer Chris Messina suggested they appropriate the method used in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) whereby users employed the pound sign or "hashtag" to signpost what they were chatting about. (Programmers knew the symbol as the hash, which was now being used to "tag" content.) This simple method soon caught on, and today the hashtag has become indelibly linked to the rise of social media.

4. ELLIPSIS // …

Originally, periods of silence were marked textually with a series of hyphens, but today the symbol of choice is the , a.k.a. the ellipsis. Dr. Anne Toner of Cambridge University spent years researching the ellipsis and finally discovered what she thinks is its first use—an English translation of Roman dramatist Terence’s play Andria printed in 1588. Although the play used hyphens instead of dots, the general idea caught on rapidly. (Toner notes that although there are only four “ellipses” in the 1588 translation, there are 29 in the 1627 version.) By the 18th century, dots started to replace the dashes, which an assistant professor from Southeastern University suggests may be connected to a medieval piece of punctuation called subpuncting or underdotting, which generally indicated something was incorrectly copied.

5. AMPERSAND // &

Ampersand symbol on an old metal block
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The ampersand originated in Latin when the word et (meaning and) was written in cursive script as a ligature (in which one or more letters are written together as a single glyph). One of the earliest examples was found daubed in graffiti on the walls of a house in Pompeii, where it was preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. By the 8th century the ampersand became a recognizably distinct character, but the word ampersand did not come into use until the late 18th/19th century, when English school children would recite "and per se and" meaning “and by itself means and” to help remember the symbol (per se being Latin for "by itself"). One of the most thorough investigations into the typographic history of the ampersand comes courtesy of German graphic designer Jan Tschichold, who in 1953 published The am­persand: its ori­gin and de­vel­op­ment, in which he collected numerous examples of the ampersand from the 1st century onwards, visually charting its developing form.

6. PLUS SIGN // +

A variety of ceramic plus signs
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The plus sign used for addition in mathematics likely derives from a shorthand ligature for the Latin et meaning “and” and was probably in use for a long time before a surviving example appeared in print. One candidate for the earliest surviving usage is in French philosopher and polymath Nicole Oresme's Algorismus proportionum, a manuscript handwritten between 1356 and 1361, although scholars debate whether it's a true plus symbol. The first use of a plus sign in a printed book is more definitive, and can be found in a 1489 edition of Johannes Widmann’s Mercantile Arithmetic. Widmann also uses the minus sign for the first time in print in this volume—although both plus and minus signs relate not to addition and subtraction but to surpluses and deficits in business accounting. After this usage, the plus sign began to appear more frequently in German mathematical texts, and first appeared in an English text in 1557 in Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte—which also introduced the equals sign.

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