We use that funky symbol (@) everyday, usually in E-mail. But I have no idea to say it (except when reading an E-mail address out loud, then it’s “Whatever-at-Whatever.com”). But, anyway, I was perusing through some random trivia books, and I came across a comment that says that @ has no official name. So what the heck do we call this thing? Where did it originate? What purpose did it serve before E-mail, if any? DID it exist before E-mail? What’s the capital of Assyria? (Ignore that last question.)
and to answer your last question
Ashur before the rule of Ashurnasirpal II, the son of Tukulti-Ninurta II. Then it became the city of Calah till the fall of the Empire.
I like “ampersat”. It would be useful to distinguish between “at” and “@” in the same way we distinguish between “and” and “&”. See this earlier thread.
“Atmark” or “at sign”
My typography book here confirms it’s called an ‘at’.
In Holland we actually call it a “Monkeytail”
This is because a Monkey is an “Aap” in dutch, and so @ kinda looks like an Aap with his tail around him.
And yes, we’re quite certain that the guy who thought of this was extremely stoned at that time.
In Korean, it’s called a golbengi.
In Hebrew, it’s called a “Strudel”.
And what about Ninveh?
I believe it’s called an “atsign”, as people have noted above, and is usually simply pronounced “at”.
One of the cute features in Science Fiction writer Alfred Bester’s book “The Demolished Man” is that it posits a future where “@” and “&” are used in names, so “Atkinson” is written “@kinson”, and “Wygand” becomes “Wyg&”. These are the sort of tricks crossword puzzle makers like to fool with.
A related question: Is it called “at” because it’s a form of shorthand and not a true “symbol”?
Right. Then @ symbol is simply an example of old shorthand: the letter a, which is still discernible, and what’s curling around it is what used to be a t but is now distorted out of shape.
Similar in origin is the &. It goes back to ancient Roman shorthand; it’s just a big E followed by a small T: the Latin word for ‘and’, et. Look in some of your formal cursive fonts, the kind used on engraved envelopes. There both the E and T are still clearly visible.
Medieval scribes used many more shorthand figures that haven’t survived in modern typography. One common thing was to write a squiggle or line over a letter, which took the place of n. Taking notes in a college class, I heard advice to write “with” as c with a line over it, abbreviation for Latin con. This one is a survival of medieval shorthand. The tilde ~ is this old shorthand n; in medieval Spanish the palatal nasal was written as a double nn, which now appears as ñ. Compare the old spelling duenna, which is written dueña in modern Spanish.
To me, it’s just an ASCII symbol, and I don’t have any need for a way to pronounce it. In an email address, it stands for “at”, but it’s not like I’m going to go up to someone and say “@”.
It’s a bit like asking how to pronounce “:)”.
Great factoid. I never knew why my mother (a nurse; hence night always becomes “noc” in her notes to me) wrote “with” as that curious sign. I’ve always used the shorthand:
though I can’t recall now where I picked it up.
Here’s more info than you really wanted to know:
Following up on what CalMeacham and Jomo Mojo said, when the & sign was first introduced, it was, in fact, considered equivalent to “et” for all purposes, and not just the word for “and”. For instance, the word “manet” (“it remains”) is sometimes seen written as “man&”.
As to the original use of the @ sign, it’s also seen in itemized lists, invoices, or receipts:
5 widgets, @ $1.50: 7.50
3 doodads, @ .75: $2.25
etc. In such cases, it’s spoken as either “at” or “each”
In Taiwan it’s called xiao laoshu, or “little mouse”.
In Spanish it’s called “arroba,” which is a unit of measure, similar to a bushel or a peck. Not surprising, b/c it looks like a hug around the neck.