The @ or "commercial at" sign had lived its life has as an obscure character for hundreds of years before becoming the darling of the internet age. You cannot send an email message to anyone without our darling little @. In fact it is the one single character required for all e-mail messages (other than "." - dot). Such a funny shape, this symbol has become ubiquitous in its use for so many things of the digital age. It has become a substitute "a" for marketers who think they are very clever with Vi@gara and Sm@rt this @nd th@t. It is almost annoying in its over-use, but where would we be without it?
The history of the @ is little confused and there are many theories about its origin. The Latin word "ad" which means appropriately enough: "at" or "to" is often given as the obvious origin of @ as an 'ad' ligature.Historical documentation does not seem to support this theory.The @ sign has most often been used over the last several hundred years to indicate a "commercial at" or "at the rate of". The symbol has been traced back as far as 1536 for usage in an Italian trade document. There have been rumors of an earlier use for the character, but again there is no real evidence as such. The symbol continued for use in commercial trade but took on a new life in the 1970s for computer programming and with the first e-mail for the first versions of internet.
The character has many names in many languages. Most people around the world simply call it "at" or the literal translation of "at" for their own language. Sometimes the name tries to project a visual of what the symbol suggests, such as monkey's tail or strudel. Here are some of the more interesting names found our little friend.
@ Catalan: arrova
@ Czech: zavinac (pickled herring)
@ Danish: snabel-a (elephants trunk-a)
@ Dutch: apestaart (monkey's tail)
@ Finnish: kissanhnt (cat's tail)
@ French: arrobase
@ German: klammeraffe (clinging monkey)
@ Hebrew: shablul (strudel)
@ Hungarian: kukac (worm)
@ Italian: chiocciola (snail)
@ Korean: golbaengi (sea snail)
@ Norwegian: grisehale (pigtail)
@ Polish: malpa (monkey
@ Russian: sabachka (dog)
@ Serbian: ludo-a (crazy a)
@ Spanish: arroba (1 arroba = 25 US pounds)
Many computer fonts often use generic @ signs that do not seem to belong in the font at all. Other fonts make very unique versions of the @ which work quite well together with the font, but may never be used in an e-mail address.
by Terry Wudenbachs
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