Tuesday, February 10, 2015

That Thing Above The 6

The other day, I was prompted at work to update my network access password.  Friends, I ask you: Is there a bigger First World headache than creating new passwords on a quarterly basis?  I tend to use the same 2 passwords in rotation, but now it seems that I'll need to come up with a few more since changing passwords needs to happen on a quarterly basis and they Can't. Be. Repeated.  And to make matters worse, the passwords need to have a capital letter, a number, and a symbol.  AND a symbol!  My online banking doesn't even have that kind of security.

At this point, I have more passwords than I do keys on my key ring.  Nevertheless, I undertook the challenge.  I started typing the usual noun and 4-digit combination, and then I looked at the keyboard to choose a symbol.  I suddenly realized I had no idea what that arrowhead thingy above the 6 is.  It looks like "^".  Every other symbol on the keyboard is familiar to me - most I use quite often.  The @ sign has experienced a renaissance thanks to email; a score ago, it was an unknown.  Even the folks on The TODAY Show had no idea what it was.  And the # seems to change names with every generation.  First, it was the number sign.  Then the telephone company decided it was the "pound sign".  Today it's called a hashtag.  It's actual name is the octothorp.  So I am very familiar with all of the symbols above the numbers except for the ^.  Aside from being cartoon curse words when combined, they each have daily, useful purposes.

When looking for a list of symbols on the internet, one needs to look far down on the list before any interest is generated in the ^.  Apparently, this little gizmo is called a circumflex or caret (not to be confused with carrot or carat), and it means "and".  It's a logical connective used as a conjunction.  I have a degree in English and this is the first time I am hearing this.  Shenandoah University, you've failed me.

Why is the caret the symbol equivalent of the proverbial red-headed step-child?  It's interesting how some symbols have come to mean different things as the years go by, but the caret seems to hold on to its obsoleteness (which Blogger tells me is not a word, but it is).  Perhaps because the caret is used in writing code, there's no way to change or build on its meaning without sending the world into a theoretical Y2K meltdown.  But still, there it is.

Perhaps some day, future generations will give the caret its due.  But until then, it's just going to sit there, mostly unused by a majority of keyboardists.  Just sitting there, like 6's dunce cap.