i and e
This note considers signals and symbols.
It covers -
page - an introduction to the @ symbol
and e - a discussion of i-, e- and 2.0 naming
- the nature of emoticons
supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding
naming, messaging and the Web 2.0 phenomenon.
the @ symbol
A 2001 Industry Standard article
offered a short, rather whimsical history of the '@' symbol,
highlighting differing metaphors in various countries
for what the ISO characterises as the 'commercial at'
symbol. Five countries characterise it simply as the 'at
sign'; others see it as an animal or food.
Germans for example see it as a monkey tail (the 'klammeraffe').
In French ('petit escargot'), Italian ('chiocciola'),
Hebrew ('shablul') and Esperanto ('heliko') it is a snail.
The Swedes supposedly characterise it as the cinnamon
bun ('kanelbulle'), Hungarians as a worm ('kukac'), Chinese
as a little mouse, Russian as a little dog, Czechs as
the rolled pickled herring ('zavinàc') and Norwegians
as a pig's tail. The Finns win the prize with 'miukumauku'
- the "sign of the meow" - inspired by a curled-up, sleeping
Giorgio Stabile claims that it derives from the amphora
as a unit of volume or weight in late mediaeval Florentine
bookkeeping, adopted in northern Europe as an abbreviation
for 'at the price of' before becoming part of the standard
keyboard set at the turn of last century.
There is a more rigorous account in Karl-Erik Tallmo's
Where It's @, highlighted in the Typography page
of our Print profile, and a note
by Michael Quinion.
The symbol has been assimilated into branding and popular
culture. In 2007 for example a Chinese couple reportedly
tried to name their baby '@', claiming the symbol - pronounced
as ai ta (love him) echoed their love for the infant.
(i, e and 2.0)