Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 15:04 UK

10 other ways to use /

Web address

The man who created the world wide web says the two oblique strokes in front of every website address are a bit of a mistake. How else is / used?

If Sir Tim Berners-Lee had his time again he'd probably leave // out.

Tenpin bowling
Tenpin bowlers use /

The two forward slashes at the start of URLs are pretty pointless, says the British scientist who is credited with being the architect of the world wide web.

Typing in // has just resulted in people overusing their index fingers, wasting time and using more paper, he has told a technology meeting in Washington.

But their inclusion has made the forward slash an everyday part of people's lives globally. Other than in website addresses, here are 10 ways / is used.

1. In tenpin bowling it is used in scoring to show a spare. This is when all of the pins have been knocked down after the second ball of a frame.

2. In Teelineshorthand, it is used instead of a full stop. And in Fraktur script, which dates back to the Middle Ages, a forward slash represents a comma.

3. In old money it is used to divide shillings and pence. So something that cost ten shillings and six pence could be written as 10/6.

4. / is the title of a novel by author Greg Bear. Published in 1997, it is also known as Slant.

A book
It's been a title of a book as well as used in them

5. When writing dates it is used as a delimiter. This is character or sequence of characters marking the beginning or end of a unit of data. So today's date would be written as 14/10/09.

6. In poems and plays it is used to indicate a line break when quoting multiple lines. For example "I had a dream, which was not all a dream/The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars", from Lord Byron's poem Darkness.

7. In NetHack, a 1987 video game, a forward slash is the symbol for a wand.

8. US government department names can be abbreviated using it. For example the Department of Defense, International Security Affairs is DOD/ISA.

9. It often replaces a hyphen to make clear a strong joint between words or phrases eg: Beyonce is a singer/actress.

10. But it can also represent "or" in instruction manuals and books.


Below is a selection of your comments.

The forward slash is also used in computer programming to represent division, e.g. a=b/c means "give a the value of b divided by c".
Rob, Leicester

Not forgetting the main use as a 'Divide' or 'Over' symbol in mathematics.
Johnny, Wokingham BERKSHIRE

Have you got something against maths? / is also divided by, especially when using programs like Excel. Also 1/2 is a way to write one half and other fractions can be written in the same way.
Kate, York, UK

I have seen it used as an indicator of abbreviation such as W/ meaning With. Having mostly seen it used by American health professionals I am unsure if it has a health or an American etymology, I shall resist using it to be on the safe side.
Andrew Leppard, Southampton, England

/ when paired with \ and o - \o/ - is an often used emoticon for people who are putting both hands up.
Paul, Goole, UK

I use it as a substitute for brackets when numbering/ itemising lists, such as... 1/ One 2/ Two 3/ Three. It also gets used in emoticons on the internet, such as 1/ :o/ (an oo-er type smile), 2/ \m/ (the "rock on" sign you see folk make with their hand at concerts and gigs - extending the fore and ring fingers but keeping the middle and ring fingers folded)
Adi, Coventry, UK

When used in representations of old money, / was known as the solidus (the Latin name for the shilling) and was the symbol for the shilling. Thus, the amount 10 shillings 6 pence could be written 10/6, with the solidus sometimes reduced to the size and position of an apostrophe. A whole number of shillings could be written using a hyphen, such as 10/-. So common was this form of representation that it was used on stamps.
Colan Hughes, Cardiff



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Berners-Lee 'sorry' for slashes
14 Oct 09 |  Technology

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