What do you call the @ symbol used in e-mail
That little "a" with a circle curling around it that is found
in email addresses is most commonly referred to as the "at" symbol.
Surprisingly though, there is no official, universal name for this sign.
There are dozens of strange terms to describe the @ symbol.
Several languages use words that associate the shape of the symbol with some
type of animal.
For instance, some quirky names for the @ symbol include:
Dutch for "monkey's tail"
snabel - Danish for "elephant's trunk"
kissanhnta - Finnish for "cat's tail"
klammeraffe - German for "hanging
papaki - Greek for "little duck"
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 electronic mail, the @ symbol was
used to represent the cost or weight of something. For instance, if you
purchased 6 apples, you might write it as 6 apples @ $1.10 each.
With the introduction of e-mail came the popularity of the @ symbol. The @
symbol or the "at sign" separates a person's online user name from his mail
server address. For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org. Its widespread use on
the Internet made it necessary to put this symbol on keyboards in other
countries that have never seen or used the symbol before. As a result, there is
really no official name for this symbol.
The actual origin of the @ symbol remains an enigma.
History tells us that the @ symbol stemmed from the tired hands of the
medieval monks. During the Middle Ages before the invention of printing presses,
every letter of a word had to be painstakingly transcribed by hand for each copy
of a published book. The monks that performed these long, tedious copying duties
looked for ways to reduce the number of individual strokes per word for common
words. Although the word "at" is quite short to begin with, it was a common
enough word in texts and documents that medieval monks thought it would be
quicker and easier to shorten the word "at" even more. As a result, the monks
looped the "t" around the "a" and created it into a circle-eliminating two
strokes of the pen.
Another story tells the @ symbol was used as an abbreviation for the word
amphora. Amphora was the unit of measurement that determined the amount held by
the large terra cotta jars that were used to ship grain, spices and wine.
Giorgio Stabile, an Italian scholar, discovered 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