Sunday, January 27, 2013

Did you know? The @ symbol...

I was explaining how to highlight a persons name so when you saw a note on the internet you could click on the person's name as a hyperlink and it would take you to their personal page.  As I was writing I questioned myself, whether to spell the @ symbol as ampersand because this is how I would describe it to users when I would help them on the computer back in the early 90's. In fact, the @ sign has been with me for a long time.  There's an association there, I even received an @ sign for a paperweight from a very good friend.  
I decided to do a little legwork to learn more about the @ symbol and it's uses.
Did you know?  The @ symbol has all sorts of names.
  • apestaart - Dutch for "monkey's tail"
  • snabel - Danish for "elephant's trunk"
  • kissanhnta - Finnish for "cat's tail"
  • klammeraffe - German for "hanging monkey"
  • kukac - Hungarian for "worm"
  • dalphaengi - Korean for "snail"
  • grisehale - Norwegian for "pig's tail"
  • sobachka - Russian for "little dog"
Before it became the standard symbol for e-mail, the @ symbol was used to indicate the cost or weight of something. For example, if you bought five oranges for $1.25 each, you might write it as 5 oranges @ $1.25 ea. It is still used on a variety of forms and invoices around the world.  
Another origin tale states that the @ symbol was used as an abbreviation for the word amphora, which was the unit of measurement used to determine the amount held by the large terra cotta jars that were used to ship grain, spices and wine. Giorgio Stabile, an Italian scholar, discovered this use of the @ symbol in a letter written in 1536 by a Florentine trader named Francesco Lapi. It seems likely that some industrious trader saw the @ symbol in a book transcribed by monks using the symbol and appropriated it for use as the amphora abbreviation. This would also explain why it became common to use the symbol in relation to quantities of something.
We see it now more prominently in e-mail.

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