What do you call the ‘\’ and ‘/’ symbols?

Do you call the ‘/’ a slash? Do you also use the same name for the ‘\’?  Most people do (even if they think one of them is called the backslash) and they’ll use the names interchangeably, unless of course they have worked for Microsoft for more than 3 months in which case they might be calling one of them a “whack”.

Side note: The first time I heard someone at Microsoft ask me to open up a browser and go to h-t-t-p-whack-whack-somesite-dot-com my response was to crack up laughing!  Seriously?! Whack-Whack?  What are we? The Mafia?! Whack that URL!

It’s even better for the back slash, since it gets called a back-whack. Even more sinister mafia overtones.  I can imagine someone saying in hushed and secretives tones “at the command line go to C-backwhack-windows”. Oooo… so scary!!

That said the redeeming feature of being in the midst of so much violence was that I knew which slash was whacked and which slash wasn’t.  So now, back to the extremely serious matter at hand – how do we resolve the confusion that the naming of these slashes causes? Some people say that one is a forward slash and one is a backwards slash and that it’s blindingly obvious, but try explaining that to your grandmother as she’s trying to login to facebook so she can see what you’ve been up to, or proclaiming the nuances of it to your IT illiterate friend who’s trying to locate a document they’ve lost on their computer.  They just don’t get it because to them a forward slash is one that is drawn from top to bottom in the forward direction! The terminology we use doesn’t gel with the experience the average punter has and it only makes it worse when people shorthand the terminology for the forward or backward slashes to just ‘slash’.  It’s then that you can guarantee that someone will get confused and asks which slash they mean.  It’s then that the kittens start dying!

Try this for yourself.  Go and find one of those antique pen thingies your parents still talk about and try writing the offending symbols on a fragment of dead tree.  Note how you will have drawn the symbols from top to bottom, and that the “forward-slash” is, as suspected, drawn from right to left, while the “back-slash” is drawn from left to right with the hand moving in a forward direction! What does this mean!  Can it be that the computing world has it wrong!  Can we have gotten it round about face!!  Can it really be true that the backslash is the forward slash, and the forward slash is the backslash?!!  Oh the horror!!  The wasted years of our lives!

Even that tome of absolute truth Wikipedia has the backslash and slash wrong!

Just to be clear and in case you missed it, I propose that we rename the symbols with immediate effect to:

Back-Slash: /


Only in this way can the true balance of the world be restored! Only then will peace be restored to the galaxy! Only then will we truly be able to fathom the magnificence and pure awesomeness that is Jar-Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1!

And with that I now calmly and humbly accept all the accolades, awards and cash donations for making such a stunning breakthrough in the world of typography, human communications and micro-molecular cell bonding that I’m sure you agree is so richly deserved!