The at sign, @, is normally read aloud as “at”; it is commonly called the at symbol, commercial at, or address sign. It is used as an accounting and speed abbreviation meaning “at a rate of” but in today’s modern world it is now seen more widely used in email addresses and social media platform handles.
@ symbol has long been used in Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese as an abbreviation of arroba, a unit of weight equivalent to 25 pounds, and derived from the Arabic expression of “the quarter”..
In Venetian, the symbol meaning was amphora (anfora), a unit of weight and volume based upon the capacity of the standard amphora jar since the 6th century.
The first historical document containing a symbol resembling a @ symbol as a commercial one is the Spanish “Taula de Ariza“, a registry to denote a wheat shipment from Castile to Aragon in 1448. Even the earliest yet discovered symbol in this shape is found in a Bulgarian translation of a Greek chronicle written by Constantinos Manasses in 1345.
Why is at the rate symbol used in email addresses?
Ray Tomlinson, a person was working at BBN technologies, was hired by the U.S. government in 1971 to develop the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the rudimentary version of the internet. Tomlinson’s found it difficult to uniquely identify each individual working on ARPANET, also many users log in to the same computer, so Tomlinson can only figure computer but not any individuals.
Ray Tomlinson knew that the unique ID must include the sender’s name and the name of the computer from which it was sent. As almost all other symbols had some meaning in programming, Tomlinson found at symbol in Model 33 teletype.
He developed a format of email addresses as we see today. This is where the modern use of the at symbol comes from; as you can see, it has no connection to “at the rate of”, but rather just means “at”. Hence, we call it the “at” symbol; we also dictate emails as “ at ”
How to pronounce/read @ symbol ?
There is no single name for the “@” symbol. And of course, reading it as “at the rate of” in email addresses doesn’t make sense, and whoever pronounces it that way is wrong. In email addresses, it is simply meant to be read as “at”.
“At the rate of” can be used in situations like “The car was moving ‘@’ 40kmph ”, this is where we are actually talking about the rate of something. Most people speak it as “john doe at the rate of Gmail dot com” and that is the wrong use. Also, one can politely let others know that they can simply call it “at” and it would be correct.
On some microblogging social media platforms like Twitter, usernames are in the form @johndoe; this type of username is referred to as a “handle”.
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