Loading...

Friday, 28 September 2012



What Does @ Really Mean?

ALL OF A SUDDEN, you see that little sign everywhere - on business cards, with bylines in newspapers, in TV. Those who keep up with the information age may know that it is used for e-mail addresses; the code you write when you send an electronic letter from your computer via modem and telephone

The at-sign was probably adopted into the computer world around 1970 under the operating system Tenex, and used for e-mail on the early Internet as well as for programming.

You use it every single day. In English it's called the "at sign." The Italians call it "snail." The Spaniards, "arroba." The Slavs, "monkey." But what did @ really mean 473 years ago?

On May 4, 1536, Francesco Lapi—a Florentine merchant who at the time was in Seville, Spain—used the symbol @ in a letter, the first ever known instance of a document containing it. It didn't had a domain name after it, however. Back then, he was referring to the number of "amphoras" that were shipped in three vessels which departed Spain on their way to Rome, Italy. An "amphora" was a commercial volume measure of those times. The document you can see above says:

There, an amphora of wine, which is one thirtieth of a barrel, is worth 70 or 80 ducats.

In Spanish, the word for that measure was called "arroba," which is the name the @ symbol still receives today in that language. Later, the symbol was conserved in typewriters' keyboards: People kept using the at sign through the centuries, and it was common in commercial accounting where it meant "at the price of."

It was in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson saw the symbol and thought it could be good to append the mail server host to the name of the person receiving an email:

I chose to append an at sign and the host name to the user's (login) name. I am frequently asked why I chose the at sign, but the at sign just makes sense. The purpose of the at sign (in English) was to indicate a unit price (for example, 10 items @ $1.95). I used the at sign to indicate that the user was "at" some other host rather than being local


The "@" symbol. . . 
used by grocers and accountants throughout the English-speaking world to indicate a rate, or cost per unit, as in "10 gal @ $3.95/gal" [ten gallons at three dollars and ninety-five cents per gallon] has become the de facto delimiter in e-mail addresses, separating the user's name from the domain name.

Although the change from at meaning "for a given amount per" to at meaning "in a specified (electronic) location" comes fairly naturally to English speakers, it does not for native speakers of other languages, for whom neither "at" nor @ meant anything until e-mail came around.

Indeed, a fair number of internet users live in countries that don't use the same alphabet English does (Japan, China, former republics of the Soviet Union including Russia, and Arabic-speaking countries, to name some major ones), and where the keyboards did not conveniently include the @ character until after it's widespread use on the internet made it a necessity.

As a result, while in some languages @ is simply called "at," in others, a wide variety of interesting nicknames have been developed for this little symbol. Most are based on the shape of the character, others are more abstract. Some are original and unique, others are derived from other languages. Some have ancient antecedents, others are still "works in progress." (Internet users in Sri Lanka are even now trying to decide what to call @). In some countries, a variety of ideosyncratic names have appeared simultaneously, while in others, government beauracracies are charged with selecting an "official" term.

Metaphors range from animals (snail, worm, little dog, horse) to body parts (elephant's trunk, monkey's tail, cat's foot, pig's ear) to food (rollmops herring, strudel, cinnamon roll, pretzel). This article includes a sampling of the many names of @, world-wide.

Afrikaans [South Africa] 
Afrikaans is spoken mainly by the decendents of Dutch settlers in South Africa. In Afrikaans, some people have begun to call @ "aapstert," [monkey's tail], also a term of endearment for someone who's made a silly mistake. Note that Afrikaans is closely related to Dutch, where @ is called, among other things, "apestaart" meaning, of course, monkey's tail.

Arabic 
The various dialects of Arabic are, of course, written in Arabic script, using a very different alphabet from English, French, and other European languages. The @ sign does not appear on manual Arabic keyboards at all, but it is found on dual--English and Arabic-- computer and word processor keyboards. As such, the only use of @ in Arabic is in e-mail addresses. Many people do not even notice it on the keyboard, and do not have a name for it. Most Arab speaking e-mailers either call @ "at" or translate English "at" into Arabic, calling it "fi."

However, one person called it "othon" [ ear ]. Another simply called it "a."

Cantonese [Hong Kong] 
Most things relating to computers and electronics in Hong Kong, until recently a British Crown Colony, are heavily influenced by native speakers of English. In Hong Kong, most people call it "the at sign" pronounced as in England and the U.S.

Catalan [Catalonia (Spain)] 
Most people call it "arrova" (the "rr" is rolled and the "v" is pronounced like a very soft English "b"). In Spanish, the same symbol and name are used to indicate a unit of weight, (1 arrova = approximately 25 U.S. pounds). Like many Spanish terms, this one comes originally from Arabic.

Czech (Czech Republic) 
In Czech, @ is called zavinac (pronounced ZAHV-in-ach), meaning "rollmops," or pickled herring. Perhaps the shape suggests herring packed tightly in a jar!

Danish 
In Danish it's either called "alfa-tegn" [alpha-sign] or "snabel," [elephant's trunk]. Obviously the former is the more formal useage, but the latter term is used most often when refering to e-mail addresses.

The @ sign is also sometimes called "grisehale" [pig's tail].

Dutch 
The imaginations of Dutch speaking people seem to have worked overtime to come up with names for this little symbol. The original name was "een a met een slinger" [an a with a swing ], but was soon more popularly called either "apestaart" or the diminutive "apestaartje" [(little) monkey's tail] or "slingeraap" [swinging monkey"]

Other names attested:

"a-krol" or "a-krul," [curly a].
"slinger-atje" [little swing a]
"apeklootje" [little monkey's testicle].
Since nearly everyone in the Netherlands also speaks English, and as more and more people go on-line, the English term is increasingly recognized.

English 
Some English speakers call @ "commercial-a" or "commercial-at." Also heard in English:

mercantile symbol
commercial symbol
scroll, or scroll-a
arobase
each
about
vortex
whorl
whirlpool
cyclone
snail
schnable
cabbage
FORTH. In the computer programming language FORTH, @ means "fetch."

(Net)Hack. The old (1960's mainframe-based) computer game Hack, now called NetHack, uses ASCII characters to indicate various "dungeons and dragons" - type creatures. For example, a capital "K" represents a Kobold. Evidently, there are some people who use @ online to indicate a human being, as the game does.

Finnish 
Many Finnish terms for @ are connected with cats. Not content with naming the sign for what it looks like, Finnish names it for what it looks like sounds like. In addition to "kissanhnta [cat's tail], "miau," "miumau," and "miuku" are all "miau merkki" [meow marks] in Finnish. Other terms from Finnish include "apinanhanta" [a monkey's tail], or "hiirenhanta" [mouse's tail]. Some "computer people" use the English word "at."

French 
In French, @ is called "arobase." Probably derived from Spanish "arroba," the word has no other meaning; it is simply the name of the symbol. It is also referred to as "un a commercial" [business a], "a enroule" [coiled a], and sometimes "escargot"[snail] or "petit escargot" [little snail].

Frisian (Friesland, Frisian Islands) 
This germanic language is spoken on the Frisian Islands in the North Sea off the coast of Holland, Germany, and Denmark. In Frisian @ is called either "aapke" [little monkey] or "apesturtsje" [little monkey's tail].

German 
In German, @ is most often called either "Affenschwanz" [monkey's tail] or "Klammeraffe" [hanging monkey]. This is also a term of zoological classification, for various South American monkeys, including the spider monkey.

Some people call it the "Ohr" [ear].

Greek 
In modern Greek, the equivalent Greek expression " sto" is used, a direct translation of the English term [a].

Hebrew 
In Hebrew, it's most often either a "shablul" or "shablool"[snail] or a " shtrudl" [strudel, that is, the pastry]. In both cases, it's something that is rolled up.

Hungarian 
Hungarians evidently don't think much of e-mail, as they've elected to call the @ sign "kukac" pronounced KOO-kots [worm or maggot].

Indonesian 
In Indonesian, @ doesn't really have a name. It's simply pronounced [ uh ] in e-mail addresses, like "username-uh-company-dot-com."

Italian 
Italians call @ "chiocciola" pronounced "kee-AH-cho-la" [the snail], and sometimes, "a commerciale" [business a].

Japanese 
Japanese borrows words freely from foreign languages, though usually with a distinctly Japanese pronunciation. (For example, English [baseball] is rendered [beisiboru]. Japanese accounting and computer people normally call @ "atto maaku" ["at" mark].

Korean 
Many Koreans call it "dalphaengi" [snail].

Lithuanian 
The "official" name for @ in Lithuanian is "comercial et," but most people call it "the e-mail sign" (in Lithuanian, of course). Some Lithuanian e-mailers have confused @ with &, calling it "ir" [and].

Mandarin Chinese (Taiwan) 
In Taiwan Mandarin Chinese, @ is called "xiao lao-shu" [little mouse] or "lao shu-hao" [mouse sign]. It is also called "at-hao" [at sign] or "lao shu-hao" [mouse sign].

Norwegian 
In Norwegian, @ is called either "grisehale" [pig's tail] or "kro/llalfa" [curly alpha]. In academic circles, however, the English term "at" is widely used.

Polish 
In Poland most e-mailers call @ "malpa" [monkey].

Other terms: "kotek" [little cat] and"ucho s'wini" [pig's ear].

NOTE: What does the mouse say? The mouse says "click?"

Portuguese 
In Portuguese, it's called "arroba," as in Spanish. The symbol is used to indicate a unit of weight with the same name ( 1 arroba = 25 U. S. pounds). Like many Spanish terms, this one comes originally from Arabic.

Romanian 
In Romanian, @ is called "la," a direct translation of English "at."

Russian 
In Russian, the "official" term for @ is "a kommercheskoe" [commercial a], but it is usually called "sobachka" [little dog or "doggie"].

Other terms:

obezjana [the monkey]
pljushka [a Russian pastry]

Serbian 
A variety of terms show up in Serbian. "Majmun" [monkey] is the root of several. This word is borrowed from Turkish. "majmun" [monkey] "majmunski rep" [monkey tail] "majmunsko-a" [monkey-ish a] "ludo-a" [crazy a] "et" [ a ] adapted from English.

Slovak (Slovakia) 
In Slovak, like Czech, @ is called "zavinac" (pronounced ZAHV-in-ach), meaning "rollmops," or pickled herring.

Slovenian 
The word in Slovene is "afna." Perhaps this is a loan word from German, where the mark is called, among other things, "affenschwanz" [monkey's tail].

There is a similar word in Slovenian, "afna" meaning "a woman who overdresses, applies too much make-up, etc."

Spanish 
In Spanish, it's called "arroba." The symbol is used to indicate a unit of weight with the same name ( 1 arroba = 25 U. S. pounds). Like many Spanish terms, this one comes originally from Arabic.

Swedish 
E-mailers in Sweden have the greatest variety of terms available for refering to @. The official term recommended by the Svenska Spreknemnden (The Swedish Language Board) is "snabel-a" [trunk-a, or "a with an elephant's trunk], and this is still the most common. At one time, the board attempted to introduce a more serious name, "at-tecken" [at-sign] but it didn't really catch on.

Another imaginative name sometimes heard in Swedish is "kanelbulle" [a kind of cinnamon roll]. Other candidates:

"apsvans" [monkey's tail]
"elefantora" [an elephant's ear]
"kattfot" [cat-foot]
"kattsvans" [cat's tail]
"kringla [pretzel]

Thai 
Thai does not have an official name for @, but some people call it " 'ai tua yiukyiu" [the wiggling worm-like character].

Turkish 
Most Turkish e-mailers call @ "kulak" [ear] or even "Ohr" ["ear" in German]. Some have suggested calling @ "at" which sounds the same, of course, but in Turkish means "horse.


22 comments:

  1. I would like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this web site. I

    am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also.

    Actually your creative writing skills has inspired me to get my own blog

    now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a great

    example of it.
    Also visit my webpage ; www.genessausageshop.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. After study a few of the blog posts on your

    website now, and I really like your method of blogging. I

    bookmarked it to my bookmark website checklist and can be checking back soon.
    Pls take a look at my web page as effectively and let me know what you
    think.
    Also see my website: http://www.aidsvideos.org/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, you used to write great, but the last few posts
    have

    been kinda boring… I miss your great writings.
    Past few posts are just a bit out of track! come on!
    Also visit my homepage - manual.prowim.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello. impressive job. I did not expect

    this. This is a impressive story. Thanks!
    Also see my website: euro cup 2012 spain and portugal

    ReplyDelete
  5. advertising
    Also visit my blog : first midwest bank

    ReplyDelete
  6. Of course, what a magnificent site and instructive posts, I
    will bookmark your site.All the Best!
    My web site - visit the following web page

    ReplyDelete
  7. I loved as much as you'll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored

    material stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness

    over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly

    the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.
    Also visit my website ... spain area code Telephone

    ReplyDelete
  8. There is clearly a bunch to

    realize about this. I consider you made some nice points in

    features also.
    Here is my weblog - ubuntuindonesia.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long)
    so I guess

    I'll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I'm thoroughly
    enjoying your blog. I too am an

    aspiring blog blogger but I'm still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for newbie blog

    writers? I'd definitely appreciate it.
    Also visit my site :: gamereviewwiki.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement
    account it. Look advanced to far added

    agreeable from you! However, how can we communicate?
    My web site - Www.marketplace.it

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks , I've just been searching for info about this

    subject for ages and yours is the best I have discovered till now. But, what about the

    bottom line? Are you sure about the source?
    Also see my webpage > www.alshuaib.net

    ReplyDelete
  12. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you

    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I'm looking to create my own blog and

    would like to find out where u got this from. thank you
    Look into my weblog :: http://superativo.blogspot.ru/2008/05/bob-marley-three-little-birds-melhor-de.html

    ReplyDelete
  13. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you

    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I'm looking to create my own blog and

    would like to find out where u got this from. thank you
    Also see my site :: http://superativo.blogspot.ru/2008/05/bob-marley-three-little-birds-melhor-de.html

    ReplyDelete
  14. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is tasteful, your authored

    material stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an shakiness

    over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly

    the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.
    my webpage - http://Topseobacklinks.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment
    (it was super long) so I guess

    I'll just sum it up what I had written and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your
    blog. I as well am an

    aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog

    writers? I'd definitely appreciate it.
    my site :: socialcircle.stock-options-picks.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. I found your blog web site on google and examine a few of your early posts.
    Continue to maintain up the

    superb operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader.


    Searching for ahead to studying extra from you in a while!

    My web-site ; forschungs.diebin.at

    ReplyDelete
  17. 2184niizb

    Here is my blog post: Payday Loans Now

    ReplyDelete
  18. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time
    to be happy. I

    have read this post and if I could I desire to suggest
    you some interesting things or

    advice. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I want to read more things about it!
    Also visit my web page ... http://www.atcbox.com/

    ReplyDelete
  19. Exclusively grown in Africa, Lemonade Diet only recently became
    popular in America when he joined me on Mondays with Marlo, and I think
    this is a clinical diagnosis. Aside from this, it is simmered in broth with coriander and
    onion.

    Here is my site: http://lemonadedietexposed.net/

    ReplyDelete
  20. My brother recommended I might like this website.

    He was totally right. This post

    actually made my day. You cann't imagine just how much time I had spent for this

    info! Thanks!

    Here is my webpage - www.apply-paydayloan.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  21. It's appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I
    want to suggest you some interesting things or

    suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read even more things about it!

    Feel free to surf to my weblog ... demo.Sedeveloper.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you

    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I'm looking to create my own blog and

    would like to know where u got this from. thanks a lot

    Feel free to visit my weblog: http://startyouth.com/members/catherinalong47/activity/23414

    ReplyDelete