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View Full Version : What do you call the `/~ key on your keyboard


Jragon
05-18-2012, 11:53 PM
On your typical QWERTY American English keyboard, the upper left of the "main part" (meaning that big block with all the letters and numbers, not the row with the escape and function keys) of the keyboard usually has a key that produces the ` character, or the ~ character with "shift."

What do you call this key? I usually call it the "grave" key ( http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grave using the second pronunciation, grahv ). I tend to get really puzzled, funny looks, then I try the other pronunciation "grave", more puzzled looks, then "backquote." At that point about an eighth of people understand, if that doesn't work "tilde" or "wavy dash" usually does the trick, and if not, then "squiggly" pretty much always does.

So what do you call the key? Poll forthcoming.

Boozahol Squid, P.I.
05-18-2012, 11:57 PM
I always call it the tilde key, which on the face of it, is quite odd. There's no other key on the board that I refer to by its shifted name. I even refer to the key to the left of the right shift as the slash key, despite using the question mark vastly, vastly more often than the slash.

TheChileanBlob
05-19-2012, 12:16 AM
My husband, who reads over my shoulder, said "Oh, the eyebrow key!"

I sometimes call it the "approximately symbol," and do a little wavy hand motion to illustrate it.

Dr. Strangelove
05-19-2012, 12:32 AM
Tilde. But I almost never talk about physical buttons; instead I name keys by the intended keystroke. Thus, I might ask someone to hit either tilde or backtick (which you don't have as an option).

Joey P
05-19-2012, 12:32 AM
I call it a tilde. If I hadn't ever taken a Spanish class I really don't know what I'd call it. Now, as for the other part of the key, the ` character. I really don't know what to make of that. It's not a backwards apostrophe. See '` it's at the wrong angle.

ETA I guess and apostrophe is straight up and down, so ignore the angle thing. It's more like an inbred comma.

Achren
05-19-2012, 12:35 AM
I'd call it "grave" if there was a way to put it over a letter. I'm not sure I've ever used it for anything other than the tilde, so that's that I call the key.

pulykamell
05-19-2012, 12:59 AM
"Tilde" here as well. I was a bit surprised that, at the moment, the voting is 11-for-11 for "tilde."

elfkin477
05-19-2012, 01:11 AM
Tilde. I would have absolutely no clue if someone said something about a grave key or a back anything. Someone saying the "approximately symbol," on the other hand, I would understand from high school science classes.

Jragon
05-19-2012, 02:02 AM
I was going to quote a bunch of you, but it would've ended up quoting pretty much everyone so screw it.

I can't believe I forgot "backtick" and "tick."

As for "backquote", I think it's because in most LaTex interpreters, ` is the ligature for for the right quotation mark (whereas ' is the ligature for left quote).

As for "grave", if you're on Mac, you can put it over a letter using some key combo or another, though I don't think you can on Windows.

The reason I ask, is that ` is a common hotkey for opening a console in applications (usually games), and people always say "press the tilde key." I always found it confusing, because ~ is shift+`, whereas ~ won't open the console, only ` will. Thus, I always referred to it as grave to eliminate ambiguity because whenever somebody said "press the tilde key" I would think "press shift+`" instead of the intended "press `".

DearestDane
05-19-2012, 03:06 AM
No such key on my keyboard. The Danish alphabet has 29 letters, each of them having its own key, so we have to bundle the characters differently, with more cases of having three different characters in one key.

rat avatar
05-19-2012, 03:51 AM
I voted tilde, but would have said "home" key being a UNIX admin.

The ADM-3A terminal that was common in colleges in the 70s where UNIX was popular had the tilde as the non-shifted action on a key that was labeled "home" in the shifted position.

thus when Bill Joy was writing csh he made tilde an alias for ones home directory.

The original IBM PC keyboards did not not have a tilde key, ESC was in that place until the AT's 84 key keyboard was released.

Rachellelogram
05-19-2012, 07:29 AM
I pronounce it as GRAH-vay. Not to be confused with gravy. Or sometimes the TIL-duh key.

Thudlow Boink
05-19-2012, 08:06 AM
When do you have to refer to the key (as opposed to the character)? I don't think I've ever had to call the key anything.

Cub Mistress
05-19-2012, 08:17 AM
I've never had occasion to call the key anything at all. I've typed a tilde occasionally, but the key has never come up in conversation at all.

Hari Seldon
05-19-2012, 09:23 AM
Back in the days I was programming in Forth, I called it the "tick", but now that I use only tex, I call it the "backquote" or "left quote". But I don't usually have any occasion to call it anything.

Robot Arm
05-19-2012, 09:56 AM
According to the official INTERCAL* character set, they are 'backspark' and 'sqiggle'.


An acronym which stands for "Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym".

guizot
05-19-2012, 10:18 AM
What we call the key isn't really the question we should be asking. The question is:

What do you use it for?


(If you don't use if for Unix), when do you use it, except for texting?

ZenBeam
05-19-2012, 11:09 AM
What we call the key isn't really the question we should be asking. The question is:

What do you use it for?


(If you don't use if for Unix), when do you use it, except for texting?In Matlab, it's the NOT symbol (like the ! is in C/C++), so I use it a lot. I also use it in Unix, as you mentioned. I don't think I ever use the ` symbol.

I would use ~ for approximately more often if it were bigger. In a lot of fonts, it looks too much like a - .

Mk VII
05-19-2012, 11:49 AM
'squiggle', and it's on the same key as the octothorpe [#]

DearestDane
05-19-2012, 12:20 PM
What we call the key isn't really the question we should be asking. The question is:

What do you use it for?


(If you don't use if for Unix), when do you use it, except for texting?

In names like Niņo Ricardo or La Niņa de los Peines.

Risha
05-19-2012, 12:34 PM
What we call the key isn't really the question we should be asking. The question is:

What do you use it for?

Almost exclusively for "approximately", and fairly frequently at that.

I'm not sure I've ever actually used the grave itself, and until this thread couldn't have told you its name. Maybe for a paper in my college poetry class.

Martin Hyde
05-19-2012, 12:40 PM
I normally would call it tilde, but grave wouldn't sound weird either. It is both the grave and the tilde key. I think tilde is probably more common because outside of certain people who use specialty programs I think the tilde is actually more used than the grave, so that is probably why the shifted key became the more prominent.

The ? key is also probably called the question mark key and the / key interchangeably. I know when I want to type a ? I think of it as the ? key and not the shifted / key.

John Mace
05-19-2012, 12:48 PM
It's not really a tilde because you can't put it above any letters (yeah, I know it's evolved to mean other things, but that's what it means to me). I call it the "approximately" symbol.

I don't use the other one, so I don't call it anything.

Acsenray
05-19-2012, 01:01 PM
I pronounce it as GRAH-vay. Not to be confused with gravy. Or sometimes the TIL-duh key.

Grave is a one-syllable word, in French and English.

BigT
05-19-2012, 01:14 PM
The reason I ask, is that ` is a common hotkey for opening a console in applications (usually games), and people always say "press the tilde key." I always found it confusing, because ~ is shift+`, whereas ~ won't open the console, only ` will. Thus, I always referred to it as grave to eliminate ambiguity because whenever somebody said "press the tilde key" I would think "press shift+`" instead of the intended "press `".
I don't think it's ambiguous. Key combinations always include the shift. Control-A does not mean Control-Shift-a, and press the Z key does not mean press Shift-z. If you really think you need to disambiguate, just say "no shift" or "by itself."As for "grave", if you're on Mac, you can put it over a letter using some key combo or another, though I don't think you can on Windows.

You can if you set your keyboard to US-International. It becomes a dead key, along with "/'.

LurkerInNJ
05-19-2012, 01:26 PM
Eyebrow and mustache.

guizot
05-19-2012, 01:49 PM
In names like Niņo Ricardo or La Niņa de los Peines.Seriously? Do you have one of those things they called a "typewriter" or something? How do you connect it to the internets?

Michael63129
05-19-2012, 01:51 PM
I don't really call it anything, mainly because I have never had it come up in conversation, but I think of it as an approximate symbol (which is what I mainly use it for).

njtt
05-19-2012, 02:05 PM
My current keyboard does not have such a key, but when I had one that did I did not call it anything. Why do keys need names? If I wanted to tell someone to type one or other of those symbols (or that I had typed one or other of them), I would refer to the symbol, not the key, and I would try to use the term that they would be most likely to understand. I take it that the nearest to "correct" terms for those symbols would be "grave" (grahv) and "tilde," but they might not be the most widely understood.

KneadToKnow
05-19-2012, 02:06 PM
Seriously? Do you have one of those things they called a "typewriter" or something? How do you connect it to the internets?

Keyboard shortcuts, method 1, Word for Windows. (http://conted.und.edu/Bbsix/courses/typespanish.html)

guizot
05-19-2012, 05:49 PM
Keyboard shortcuts, method 1, Word for Windows. (http://conted.und.edu/Bbsix/courses/typespanish.html)Well of course, but that's just a nuisance, when you can simply program a macro for alt-n to do it one stroke.

Der Trihs
05-19-2012, 06:02 PM
The "squiggle key", so I voted "squiggly".

Rachellelogram
05-19-2012, 10:10 PM
Grave is a one-syllable word, in French and English.
Yeah I know, I looked it up. I must have heard it wrong years ago and the mispronunciation stuck. I don't say it often enough to be embarrassed by it. I suppose it's safer to just call it the tilde key from now on, though.

kayT
05-19-2012, 11:02 PM
I can't believe how many of you thought you could not put a symbol over a letter! I guess some of us type Spanish (or other non-English) words more than others.

guizot
06-03-2012, 10:18 AM
I can't believe how many of you thought you could not put a symbol over a letter! I guess some of us type Spanish (or other non-English) words more than others.I think you're missing the point of the joke.

Of course we use these Spanish symbols all the time (in California, at least). The joke is that, when I was a boy, and people still used typewriters, you had to use the backspace key, and physically type a second time in the same place.

DMark
06-03-2012, 03:14 PM
Having taught classes in Adobe Illustrator, the books all refer to it as the Tilde key.
There are actually a few cool tricks you can do with that key in Illustrator.

Rhiannon8404
06-03-2012, 04:33 PM
I'm not sure I have ever actually referred to it. but if I was going to, I would probably call it the tilde key.

foolsguinea
06-03-2012, 04:42 PM
"grave/tilde"? The grave is primary, ostensibly, though I may use the tilde more.

And yes, "grahv till-deh."I've never had occasion to call the key anything at all. I've typed a tilde occasionally, but the key has never come up in conversation at all.Pretty much this.

gwendee
06-04-2012, 07:00 AM
I'm not sure I have ever actually referred to it. but if I was going to, I would probably call it the tilde key.

Similarly, I came in to say that although I know that the squiggle is called a tilde and even use them on occasion, I have never in all my years had occasion to refer to the key in any manner.

MrDibble
06-04-2012, 07:17 AM
Tilde for me.

There's no other key on the board that I refer to by its shifted name. I'm more likely to refer to the question mark key than the slash key, and ditto for the PrintScreen and Pause keys.

WhyNot
06-04-2012, 07:24 AM
I call it (on those rare occasions when it requires naming) "the tilde key". If forced to name the ` character, I'd probably call it "open single quote". Never occurred to me that it was a grave (and yes, took 5 years of French, so I know of the accents grave and aigu), because no, I didn't know one could (easily) place it over a letter using a computer.

Nava
06-04-2012, 07:28 AM
The whole family is tildes, but in different keyboard layouts they're in different keys (for ES-international, ~ is in AltGr+4, ´is betwen ņ and į, `is between p and +, ^ is shift+`).

I've also been known to refer to ~ as a "hat": "n-with-a-hat" seems to be a description of ņ which many Anglos understand better than "n-with-a-tilde".

kanicbird
06-04-2012, 08:40 AM
Squiggly line key, hey I'm not trying to teach anyone the proper name of this thing, nor do I even know it, nor is it practical to know as so few people seem to know so you can't use the term to relay information. I'm just trying to relay the information in a way that the other person can understand and everyone seems to get what the Squiggly line key is so that is the best term to use IMHO.

kittenblue
06-04-2012, 08:58 AM
I can honestly say I've never used that key and if the OP hadn't given a map to it I would not have found it.

mnemosyne
06-04-2012, 07:08 PM
tilde when speaking English, grave when speaking French.

I use the US-International keyboard and use the key whenever I write in French ... ā č ....

My cat's name is Breņa (yes, after the Perfect Circle song), so it comes in handy then, too!

ZenBeam
06-04-2012, 08:01 PM
I've also been known to refer to ~ as a "hat": "n-with-a-hat" seems to be a description of ņ which many Anglos understand better than "n-with-a-tilde".Ooh, this would confuse me. "N hat" to me means "n" with a "^" on top. Also known as the "unit normal vector", in all those physics and engineering classes, and now at work.

I suspect most of the people who work with unit normal vectors would know what a tilde is, though. You're going to have to estimate your audience to know which to say.

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