Symbol that combines a, o and q?

I was in a little trivia game last week and one of the questions was “The ___ mark is a combination of the letters a, o and q”

The question was read aloud so I don’t know if the letters were meant to be capitalized or what. The trivia was pretty lame and they never revealed the answers.

Anyway, my team said “uhm, the ‘at mark’” meaning @ because that’s the best we could come up with. But I came home and found that, at least according to Wikipedia, there’s no fancy name for the symbol and it mentioned nothing of a, o and q.

Anyone know the answer to the trivia question?

One version of the origin of the question mark is that it comes from the Latin “quaestio”, abbreviated at the end of a sentence with just the q and the o one on top of the other. I don’t know anything about the a, though.

I thought it might be the Ampersand, but that turns out to be form from the letters ‘et’, Latin for and. The Ordinal Indicator actually is the letters ‘ao’, but I don’t see where the ‘q’ fits in. Of course trivia games are notorious for the ‘truthiness’ of their answers.


The story about the question mark coming from “quaestio” is probably incorrect:

This incorrect theory of the origin of the question mark probably was the answer to the trivia question that you heard though. Who made up the trivia questions? Why do you have any reason to believe that they know what they are talking about?

That’s the main reason I flagged it as “one version of”.

I’m totally willing to believe the trivia makers (it is “World Tavern Trivia”) do not know what they are talking about. Wouldn’t be surprised if they share an answer book with Snapple.

Thanks all! :slight_smile:

I do know a name for it, and I would’a sworn I’d heard it used in Miami, but while m-w does contain that name it does not list that symbol as one of the definitions for it. Thus, I’d like to ask thee, esteemed Dopers, whether any of you had heard this name before (if you haven’t, maybe I’m getting dotty in my old age, or maybe the name is used in Miami because of bilingualism).
The name is “arroba” (rhymes with jojoba, not with Aruba): this is the name of a traditional unit of weight used throughout the Iberian Peninsula (m-w gives the values for the “Spanish” and “Portuguese” arrobas, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Aragonese arroba was different from the Navarrese arroba, the Lion arroba, the…), the symbol @ is its abbreviation. Thanks to email, a symbol which most speakers of Spanish and Portuguese had about forgotten is now in daily use.

I thought the @ was short for “at each” – see, it’s an “a” inside an “e”. That symbol was not unknown outside of Spain and Portugal – it was used in grocery stores all over the US at least – Head of lettuce @ $1.00 would mean you could buy a head of lettuce at $1.00 each.

I’d heard it said to be the Spanish word for what Americans usually call “the at sign.” And, yes, the latter is the only thing I’ve ever heard it called in English.

EDIT: While reading the Wikipedia article, I note that the sign is supposedly also used in Spanish as a way to represent either a or o for the purposes of adding gender neutrality. E.g. amigos becomes amig@s. Have you heard of this?

I’ve seen this word used in French for the @ symbol. It’s spelled slightly differently (arrobase, I’ve also seen it spelled arrobas) and I don’t think it has any other meaning in French. It’s also not used all that commonly; I think a commercial is a more usual name for the symbol.

Thank you for the responses.

Heard of it? I’m one of the troglodytes who makes fun of people who write and speak like that…

You see, at some point certain politicians decided it was not correct to use the masculine as neuter any more. Nope. So, they started saying (and writing)

¡Compañeros, compañeras! (insert rest of speech here)

which spawned controversies about word order. Should you have the ladies first, or would that be sexist, as it is the traditional way? But it is what alphabetical order requires! But it is machista! But! Some troglodytes will make fun of this by saying, for example, that the new diputados and diputadas have taken up their new sillas and sillos (silla, chair, is f. irregardles of the tuckus on it; sillo wasn’t a real word last time I looked).

Eventually, some people started abbreviating the doublenouns, like this:


This led to us troglodytes reading that as compañeroas, and anyway it was still a bit longer than the old fashioned way of using the male form for a mixed-gender colective, plus it still had the order issue; hence


which some people are reading as compañeroas - in all seriousness! :smack:

So yeah, yeah, I’m familiar with the subject.