- At sign
The at sign (@), also called the ampersat, apetail, monkey tail, atmark, at symbol, or commercial at, is formally an abbreviation of the accounting and commercial invoice term "at the rate of" (e.g., 7 widgets @ $2 = $14). In recent years its meaning has changed to also mean "at" in the sense of "located at", especially in email addresses. Increasingly, @ has also been used as a prefix to user names (e.g., @username) on social websites, either simply as a textual addition to direct their attention or denote an attribution/link, as on forums and suchlike; or used so that the site's parser will detect and notify the person using that user name of the reference, as on Twitter and Facebook (although the latter's parsing now automatically detects user names without the symbol).
The Underwood Typewriter Company included the symbol on the keyboard of "Underwood No. 5" in 1900, and it was included on subsequent typewriters and their successors' keyboards.
The @ symbol is known by various names in English, including "at sign", "at the rate", "at symbol", "at mark", "commercial at" or "ampersat". This is not to be confused with the ampersand. In keeping with its obvious etymology, it is usually pronounced at.
In Italian, the symbol is informally called the "snail" (chiocciola); its French name is arobase or sometimes arrobe or arobe (from the arroba, an old Spanish and Portuguese unit of weight); in Dutch it is called the "(little) monkey-tail" (apenstaartje); in Hebrew, it is informally called Strudel (שטרודל); in Korean it is called golbaengi or "sea snail" ("골뱅이"); in Japanese it is the "at mark" (アットマーク atto māku ), and similarly, in German it is called the "at symbol" or "spider monkey" (Klammeraffe); and in Chinese, it is known as the "little mouse". In Spanish and Portuguese it is the symbol for arroba, an archaic unit of weight, and in some Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries it is still pronounced this way, even when related to an email address.
In Russian, the symbol is informally called the "dog" (sobaka, собака) or "doggie" (sobachka, собачка). The Finnish sometimes call the symbol miukumauk ("meow meow") owing to the symbol's resemblance to a cat and its tail. In Bulgarian it is called maimunka (маймунка), "little monkey" and in Polish, it is called małpa, meaning "monkey," for its resemblance to a monkey with its arm extended over its head. In Romanian, it is called colloquially A, coadă de maimuţă ("A, monkey-tail") or arond ("a-round").
In Greek the sign is known as the "papaki" ("παπάκι") (literally meaning "little duck"). In Swedish and Danish the sign is known as the snabel-a (literally "trunk a"), owning to the resemblance between the sign and the trunk of an elephant. In Norwegian the term most commonly used is krøllalfa (literally: curled alpha). In Greek the sign is known as papaki (παπάκι) meaning small duck. In Slovenian, the most common word for it is afna, colloquially meaning "monkey", much like in Polish. In Hungarian, it is called kukac meaning "worm". In Czech and Slovak, it is called zavináč meaning "rollmop".
There are several theories about the origin of the commercial at character:
- The symbol developed as a mercantile shorthand symbol of "each at"—the symbol resembling a small "a" inside a small "e"—to distinguish it from the different "at" (symbolized by the mere letter "a") or "per." For example, the cost of "12 apples @ $1" would be $12, whereas the cost of "12 apples at $1" would be $1—a crucial and necessary distinction.
- Medieval monks abbreviated the Latin word ad (at, toward, by, about) next to a numeral. One reason for this abbreviation had to do with the saving of space and ink. Since thousands of pages of Bible documents were copied onto expensive papyrus or hides, and the words at, toward, by, about repeated millions of times throughout the ages, a considerable amount of resources could be spared this way. A theory concerning this graphic puts forward the idea that the form derives from the Latin word ad,[clarification needed] where the d is spelled in capital, and then inversed back over the alpha in front of it, thus forming a shape that resembles the @.
- It was originally an abbreviation of the Greek preposition ανά (transliterated ana), meaning at the rate of or per.
- An Italian academic claims to have traced the @ symbol to the Italian Renaissance, in a Venetian mercantile document signed by Francesco Lapi on May 4, 1537. The document is about commerce with Pizarro, in particular the price of an @ of wine in Peru; @ has long been used in Spanish and Portuguese as an abbreviation of arroba, a unit of weight equivalent to 25 pounds, and derived from the Arabic expression of "a quarter". In Italian, the symbol was interpreted to mean amphora (anfora). Currently, the word arroba means both the at-symbol and a unit of weight. In Italian, the symbol represents one amphora, a unit of weight and volume based upon the capacity of the standard amphora jar, and entered modern meaning and use as "at the rate of" or "at price of" in northern Europe.
- From Norman French "à" meaning "at" in the "each" sense, i.e. "2 widgets à £5.50 = £11.00" is the accountancy shorthand notation in English commercial vouchers and ledgers to the 1990s, when the email usage superseded the accountancy usage. It also is so used in Modern French and Swedish; in this view, the at-symbol is a stylised form of à that avoids raising the writing hand from the page in drawing the symbol; this compromise between @ and à in French handwriting is in street market signs.
- The Aragonese historian Jorge Romance located the appearance of the @ symbol at the "taula de Ariza" registry from 1448, to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to the Kingdom of Aragon.
@ was present in the 1902 model Lambert typewriter made by Lambert Typewriter Company of New York. Its inclusion in the original 1963 ASCII character set was unremarkable as it was a standard commercial typewriter character (the 1961 IBM Selectric typewriter's keyboard included @).
In contemporary English usage, @ is a commercial symbol, called at site or at rate meaning at and at the rate of. It has been used, rarely, in financial documents[clarification needed] or grocers' price tags, and is not used in standard typography.
The most familiar contemporary use of @ is in email addresses (transmitted by SMTP), as in
jdoelocated at site the
example.comdomain). BBN Technologies' Ray Tomlinson is credited with introducing this usage in 1971. This idea of the symbol representing located at in the form
user@hostalso is seen in other tools and protocols; for example the Unix shell command
ssh email@example.com to establish a ssh connection to the computer with the hostname
example.netusing the username
On web pages, organizations often obscure email addresses of their members or employees by omitting the @. This practice, known as address munging, makes the email addresses less vulnerable to spam programs that scan the internet for them.
Another contemporary use of the @ symbol in American English is adding information about a sporting event. Opposing sports teams sometime have their names separated by a v. (versus). However, the "v." may be replaced with "@" when also conveying at which team's home field the game will be played. In this case, the away team is written first.
On some online forums without threaded discussions, @ is used to denote a reply; for instance: "@Jane" to respond to a comment Jane made earlier. Similarly, in some cases, @ is used for "attention" in email messages originally sent to someone else. For example, if an email was sent from Catherine to Steve, but in the body of the e-mail, Catherine wants to make Keirsten aware of something, Catherine will start the line "@Keirsten" to indicate to Keirsten that the following sentence concerns her. This also helps with mobile email users who cannot see bold or color in email.
In microblogging (such as Twitter and StatusNet-based microblogs), @ before the user name is used to send publicly readable replies (e.g. "@otheruser: Message text here"). The blog and client software can automatically interpret these as links to the user in question. This use of the @ symbol was also made available to Facebook users on September 15, 2009. In Internet Relay Chat (IRC), it is often shown before a user's nick to mark the operator of a channel.
@ may sometimes be used to substitute for other symbols or meanings:
- A schwa, as the actual schwa character "ə" may be difficult to produce on many computers. It is used in this capacity in the ASCII IPA schemes SAMPA, X-SAMPA and Kirshenbaum.
- In leet it may substitute for the letter "A".
- It is frequently used in typing and text messaging as an abbreviation for "at".
- In online discourse, @ is used by some anarchists as a substitute for the traditional circle-A.
- The at sign has also been used when spelling out Latina/o (Latin@); this brings together the o and the a, placing neither gender first.
@ is used in various programming languages although there is not a consistent theme to its usage. For example:
- In ALGOL 68, the @ symbol is brief form of the at keyword, it is used change the lower bound of an array. For example: arrayx[@88] now refers to an array starting at index 88.
- In C#, it denotes "verbatim strings", where no characters are escaped and two double-quote characters represent a single double-quote. As a prefix it also allows keywords to be used as identifiers.
- In Forth, it is used to fetch values from the address on the top of the stack. The operator is pronounced as "fetch".
- In Java, it is used to denote annotations, a kind of metadata, since version 5.0
- In modal logic, specifically when representing possible worlds, @ is sometimes used as a logical symbol to denote the actual world (the world we are 'at').
- In Objective-C, @ is prefixed to language-specific keywords such as @implementation, and also to form string literals.
- In Pascal, @ is the "address of" operator (it tells the location at which a variable is found).
- In Perl, @ prefixes variables which contain arrays.
- In PHP, it is used just before an expression to make the interpreter suppress errors that would be generated from that expression.
- In Python 2.4 and up, it is used to decorate a function (wrap the function in another one at creation time).
- In Ruby, @ prefixes instance variables, and @@ prefixes class variables.
- In Scala, it is used to denote annotations (as in Java), and also to bind names to subpatterns in pattern-matching expressions.
- In ML, it denotes list concatenation.
- In several xBase-type programming languages, like DBASE, FoxPro/Visual FoxPro or Clipper, it is used to denote position on the screen. For example: @1,1 SAY "HELLO" to show the word "HELLO" in line 1, column 1.
- In FoxPro/Visual FoxPro, also is used to indicate explicit pass by reference of variables when calling procedures or functions (but it's not an address operator).
Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese
In Portuguese and Spanish, as well in other West Iberian languages where many words end in '-o' when in the masculine gender and end '-a' in the feminine, '@' can be used as a gender-neutral substitute for the default 'o' ending, which some advocates of gender-neutral language-modification feel indicates implicit linguistic disregard for women. These languages do not possess a neutral gender and the masculine forms are also used traditionally when referring to groups of mixed or unknown sex. The at-sign is intended to replace the desinence '-o', including its plural form '-os', due to the resemblance to a digraph of an inner letter 'a' and an outer letter 'o'.
As an example of the '@' being used for gender-inclusive purposes, we can consider the Spanish and Portuguese word amigos. When the word represents not only male friends, but also female ones, the proponents of a gender-inclusive language replace it with amig@s. In this sense, amigos would be used only when the writer is sure the group referred to is all-male. Usage of amigas is the same in traditional and such new forms of communication. Alternative forms for a gender-inclusive at-sign would be the slash sign (amigos/as) and the circle-A (amigⒶs), maybe as a kind of "bisexual digraph". More about it in Satiric misspelling.
The Real Academia Española disapproves the use of the at-sign as a letter. Many Portuguese and Spanish speakers[who?] may also consider this usage degrading. Some[who?] argue it is just more cultural imperialism. Others[who?] that there is no established pronunciation, although there is at least one proposal in this sense. Português Com Inclusão de Gênero (Portuguese With Inclusion of Gender) recommends that Spanish and Portuguese speakers pronounce the at-sign as [ɔ], for /aˈmiɡɔ/. This [ɔ] is the vowel sound between "feminine" [a] (/aˈmiɡa/) and "masculine" [o] (/aˈmiɡo/).
Portuguese With Inclusion of Gender (see Gender-neutrality in Spanish and Portuguese) has also other proposals, including a lower case at-sign '@', since the original sign is as big as an upper-case letter.
- In (especially English) science and technical literature, @ is used to describe the conditions under which data are valid or a measurement has been made. E.g. the density of saltwater may read d = 1.050 g/cm³ @ 15°C (read "at" for @), density of a gas d = 0,150 g/L @ 20°C, 1 bar, or noise of a car 81 dB @ 80 km/h (speed).
- @ is also sometimes used (e.g. in articles about missing persons, obituaries, brief reports) to denote an alias after a person's proper name; for instance: "John Smith @ Jean Smyth" (a possible abbreviation of aka).
- In chemical formulae, @ is used to denote trapped atoms or molecules. For instance, La@C60 means lanthanum inside a fullerene cage.
- In Malagasy, @ is an informal abbreviation for the prepositional form amin'ny.
- In the Koalib language of Sudan, @ is used as a letter in Arabic loanwords. The Unicode Consortium rejected a proposal to encode it separately as a letter in Unicode, but SIL International uses Private Use Area code points U+F247 and U+F248 for lowercase and capital versions.
"Commercial at" in other languages
In most languages other than English, @ was less common before email became widespread in the mid-1990s, although most typewriters included the symbol. Consequently, it is often perceived in those languages as denoting "The Internet", computerization, or modernization in general.
- In Arabic, it is at spelled آتْ (using the English pronunciation).
- In Armenian, it is "shnik" (շնիկ) which means puppy.
- In Azeri, it is at (using the English pronunciation).
- In Basque, it is "a bildua" (wrapped a).
- In Belarusian, it's called "сьлімак" ("helix", "snail")
- In Bosnian, it is "ludo a" ("crazy a").
- In Bulgarian, it is called кльомба ("klyomba", means nothing else) or маймунско а (maymunsko a "monkey A").
- In Catalan, it is called 'arrova' (which means a unit of measure), or 'ensaïmada' (because of the similar shape of this food speciality)
- In Chinese
- In mainland China, it is quan A (圈A), meaning "circled A / enclosed A" or hua A (花A), meaning "lacy A". Sometimes as xiao laoshu (小老鼠), meaning "little mouse". Nowadays, for most of China's youth, it is at (using the English pronunciation).
- In Taiwan, it is xiao laoshu (小老鼠).
- In Hong Kong and Macau, it is at (using the English pronunciation).
- In Croatian, it is most often referred to by the English word at. Informally, it is called a manki, coming from the local pronunciation of the English word, monkey. Note that the Croatian word for monkey, majmun, is not used to denote @.
- In Czech, and Slovak, it is called zavináč, which is an abbreviation of zavinuté A, meaning "voluted A". Most of people, not knowing the origin, are connecting it with (rollmops), which are also called zavináč.
- In Danish, it is snabel-a ("(elephant's) trunk-a").
- In Dutch, it is called apenstaartje ("(little) monkey-tail").
- In Esperanto, it is called ĉe-signo ("at" – for the email use, with an address pronounced zamenhof ĉe esperanto punkto org), po-signo ("each"—refers only to the mathematical use) or heliko ("snail").
- in Estonian, it is also called at, meaning "@".
- In Faroese, it is kurla (sounds "curly"), hjá ("at"), tranta and snápil-a ("(elephant's) trunk-a").
- In Finnish, it was originally called taksamerkki ("fee sign") or yksikköhinnan merkki ("unit price sign"), but these names are long obsolete and now rarely understood. Nowadays, it is officially ät-merkki, according to the national standardization institute SFS; frequently also spelled "at-merkki". Other names include kissanhäntä, ("cat's tail") and miukumauku ("miaow-meow").
- In French, it is arrobase or arrobe or a commercial (though this is most commonly used in French-speaking Canada, and should normally only be used when quoting prices; it should always be called arobase or, better yet, arobas when in an email address), and sometimes a dans le rond (a in the circle). Same origin as Spanish, which could be derived from Arabic, ar-roub. In France, it is also common (especially for the younger generations) to say "at" (using the English word) when spelling out an email address.
- In Georgian, it is "at" (using the English pronunciation), spelled ეთ–ი(კომერციული ეთ–ი).
- In German, it sometimes used to be referred to as Klammeraffe (meaning "spider monkey"). Klammeraffe refers to the similarity of @ to the tail of a monkey grabbing a branch. Lately, it is mostly called at just like in English
- In Greek, it is most often referred to as papaki (παπάκι), meaning "duckling," due to the similarity it bears with comic character designs for ducks.
- In Greenlandic, and Inuit language, it is called aajusaq meaning "a-like" or "something that looks like a"
- In Hebrew, it is colloquially known as shtrudel (שטרודל). The normative term, invented by The Academy of the Hebrew Language, is krukhit (כרוכית), which is a Hebrew word for strudel.
- In Hindi, it is "at" (using the English pronunciation).
- In Hungarian, it is called kukac ("worm, maggot").
- In Icelandic, it is referred to as "at merkið ("the at-sign") or "hjá", which is a direct translation of at.
- In Indonesian, it is usually read et. Variations exist – especially if verbal communication is very noisy – such as: a bundar/a bulat (meaning "circle A"), a keong ("snail A"), and (very rarely) a monyet ("monkey A").
- In Italian, it is chiocciola ("snail") or a commerciale, sometimes at (pronounced more often [ˈɛt], rarely [ˈat]) or ad.
- In Japanese, it is called attomāku (アットマーク, "at mark"). The word is a wasei-eigo, a loan word from the English language, or Gairaigo, referring to foreign loan words in general. It is sometimes called naruto, because of Naruto whirlpools or food (kamaboko).
- In Kazakh, it is officially called айқұлақ ("moon's ear"), sometimes unofficial as ит басы ("dog's head").
- In Korean, it is called golbaeng-i (골뱅이; bai top shells), a dialectal form of whelk.
- In Kyrgyz, it is officially called маймылча ("monkey"), sometimes unofficial as собачка ("doggy"), and et (using the English pronunciation).
- In Latvian, it is pronounced same as in English, but, since in Latvian [æ] is written as "e" not "a" (as in English), it's sometimes written as et.
- In Lithuanian, it is eta (equivalent to English at but with Lithuanian ending)
- In Luxembourgish it used to be called Afeschwanz (monkey-tail), but due to widespread use it is now pronounced 'at' like in English.
- In [FYROM], it is called мајмунче (pronun. my-moon-cheh, little monkey)
- In Malay, it is called alias when it is used in name, di when it is used in email. It is also commonly used to abbreviate atau which means or or either.
- In Morse Code, it is known as a "commat," consisting of the Morse code for the "A" and "C" run together as one character: (·--·-·). The symbol was added in 2004 for use with email addresses, the only change since World War I.
- In Norwegian, it is officially called krøllalfa ("curly alpha" or "alpha twirl"). (The alternate alfakrøll is also common, but is not its official name.) Sometimes Snabel a, @'s Danish name, (trunk a, as in elephant's trunk) is used. Commonly, people will call the letter [æt] (as in English), particularly when giving their email address.
- In Persian, it is at (using the English pronunciation).
- In The Philippines, at means 'and' in Tagalog which could be used interchangeably in colloquial abbreviations. Ex: Magluto @ kumain. Cook and eat.
- In Portuguese, it is called 'arroba' (from the Arabic arrub). The word arroba is also used for a weight measure in Portuguese. While there are regional variations, one arroba is typically considered as representing approximately 32 pounds, 14.7 kg, and both the weight and the symbol are called arroba. In Brazil, cattle are still priced by the arroba – now rounded to 15 kg. (This occurs because the same sign was used to represent the same measure.)
- In Polish, it is called, both officially and commonly małpa (monkey); sometimes also małpka (little monkey).
- In Romanian, it is called colloquially (iliterately) Coadă de maimuţă (monkey-tail) or "a-rond". The latter is commonly used and it comes from a-round from its shape, but that is nothing like the mathematical symbol "A-rond" (rounded A). Some even call it "aron". Recommended reading: "at" or "la".
- In Russian, it is most commonly sobaka (собака) (dog). The name "dog" has come from Soviet computers DVK where the symbol had a short tail and similarity to a dog.
- In Serbian, it is called лудо А / ludo A (crazy A), мајмунче / majmunče (little monkey) or мајмун / majmun (monkey)
- In Slovenian, it is called afna (little monkey)
- In Spanish-speaking countries it denotes a pre-metric unit of weight. While there are regional variations in Spain and Mexico it is typically considered to represent approximately 25 pounds (11.5 kg), and both the weight and the symbol are called arroba. It has also been used as a unit of volume for wine and oil.
- In Swedish, it is called snabel-a ("(elephant's) trunk-a"), kanelbulle (Cinnamon roll) or simply "at" like in the English language.
- In Swiss German, it is commonly called Affenschwanz ("monkey-tail").
- In Thai, it is commonly called at like English.
- In Turkish, it is et (using the English pronunciation). Also called as güzel a (beautiful a), özel a (special a), salyangoz (snail), koç (ram), kuyruklu a (a with a tail), çengelli a (a with hook) and kulak (ear).
- In Ukrainian, it is commonly called et ("at"), other names being ravlyk (равлик) (snail), slymachok (слимачок) (little slug), vukho (вухо) (ear) and pesyk (песик) (little dog).
- In Vietnamese, it is called a còng (bent a) in the North and a móc (hooked a) in the South. They just call it base on its symbol, without knowing what it actually means.
- In Welsh, it is sometimes known as a malwen or malwoden (a snail).
On the final episode of the second series of BBC Radio 4 show The Museum of Curiosity, recorded in London on 19 May 2009 and broadcast on 8 June 2009, author Philip Pullman added the category of "things that were invented for one purpose, but are used for another" to the museum's collection. As an example, Pullman referred to @. The host of the show, QI creator John Lloyd, noted that in other languages the symbol has a proper name, and pledged on QI series A DVD to support widespread use of the term "Astatine" to refer to the symbol. This name was chosen as the chemical element astatine has the chemical symbol "At".
Besides the U+0040 @ commercial at (64decimal, HTML:
@) in its regular size, there is also a Unicode character for a small at-sign: U+FE6B ﹫ small commercial at (65131decimal, HTML:
﹫), located in the Small Font Variants code chart Depending on the font type this small at-sign can have the size of lower-case letter, but it is often smaller than that. In addition, the "full-width ASCII variants" code chart has U+FF20 ＠ fullwidth commercial at (65312decimal, HTML:
Culture and art
- The upsurge of use of the at sign in society has made it one of the more recognizable symbols of the Internet. The Museum of Modern Art went so far as to admit the at sign to its architecture and design collection.
- There is a character named @ in the book Syrup by Max Barry.
- ^ a b "Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem". The New York Times, Alice Rawsthorn, March 21, 2010. 2010-03-22. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/arts/design/22iht-design22.html?ref=technology. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
- ^ Willan, Philip (2000-07-31). "Merchant@Florence Wrote It First 500 Years Ago". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,348744,00.html. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
- ^ "La arroba no es de Sevilla (ni de Italia)". purnas.com. Jorge Romance. http://www.purnas.com/2009/06/30/la-arroba-no-es-de-sevilla-ni-de-italia. Retrieved 2009-06-30.
- ^ Bringhurst, Robert (2002). The Elements of Typographic Style (version 2.5), p.272. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks. ISBN 0-88179-133-4.
- ^ Who sent the first e-mail?
- ^ For an example, see: http://www.nfl.com/schedules
- ^ Niet compatible browser | Facebook
- ^ Martell-Otero, Loida (Fall 2009). "Doctoral Studies as Llamamiento, or How We All Need to be 'Ugly Betty'". Perspectivas: 84–106.
- ^ PHP: Error Control Operators – Manual
- ^ "Visual FoxPro Programming Language Online Help: SET UDFPARMS (Command), or MSDN Library 'How to: Pass Data to Parameters by Reference'.". Microsoft, Inc.. http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/z9b11381.aspx. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- ^ DPD 1ͺ ediciσn, 2ͺ tirada
- ^ Numpol.com, in Portuguese and also conscienciaefervescente.blogspot.com, in Portuguese as well
- ^ Vowels in Portuguese
- ^ Constable, Peter, and Lorna A. Priest (Oct. 12, 2009) SIL Corporate PUA Assignments 5.2a. SIL International. pp. 59-60. Retrieved on Apr. 12, 2010.
- ^ "Meeting Twelve – P-51 Mustang, Tempting Fate, Inventions Being Used for Things They Weren't Designed For". The Museum of Curiosity. 8 June 2009. No. 6, season 2.
- ^ John Lloyd and John Mitchinson (6 November 2006). QI – The Complete First Series: "Factoids" (Audio Commentary) (DVD). BBC and 2 Entertain. ISBN 5-014503-232528.
- ^ Unicode.org
- ^ Unicode.org
- "Daniel Soar on @", London Review of Books, Vol. 31 No. 10, 28 May 2009
- ascii64 – the @ book – free download (creative commons) – by patrik sneyd – foreword by luigi colani (11/2006)
- A Natural History of the @ Sign The many names of the at sign in various languages
- Linguist's view
- Gender-inclusive use of @ in Portuguese (and in Spanish too): 2 – A língua e o sexo (2 – Tongue and Sex), Quartos (quarters) I, II and III, one of the subjects of Controversial Numbers project
- Where it's At: names for a common symbol Article at World Wide Words
- UK Telegraph Article: Chinese parents choose to name their baby "@"
- This article was originally based on material from the Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, which is licensed under the GFDL.
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