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I have this in my vimrc:

let g:mapleader = ","
nnoremap # ,

so I use , as my leader, and want to use # for backwards search after f,t...But my # mapping does not work, so something is amiss

thanks

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To set your leader key, you must use let mapleader = "," not let g:mapleader = ",".

From :h <leader>

                    *<Leader>* *mapleader*
To define a mapping which uses the "mapleader" variable, the special string
"<Leader>" can be used.  It is replaced with the string value of "mapleader".
If "mapleader" is not set or empty, a backslash is used instead.  Example: >
    :map <Leader>A  oanother line<Esc>
Works like: >
    :map \A  oanother line<Esc>
But after: >
    :let mapleader = ","
It works like: >
    :map ,A  oanother line<Esc>

As for using nnoremap <something> <leader> like you did, this causes no issues for me. Make sure you don't have some other mapping by running the command: nnoremap ,. It should print No mapping found.

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