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Discuss word origins and meanings.

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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Jul 29, 2007 6:51 am

Bob, You raised an interesting question – I had never given a thought as to where any of those symbols (e.g. @, &, #, etc.) came from and what other names they may have. In reading the above excellent responses and then doing some further searching around for info on @, I found that Wikipedia’s offering on the At sign [[@]] provided more information, at least, than anything else I found, but as always be aware of Wikipedia's warnings (e.g. ‘check for accuracy,’ ‘citation needed,’ ‘information in this article or section has not been verified against sources and may not be reliable,’. . . ). I always feel a bit queasy when provided with information of unknown authorship and without references (e.g. Wikipedia provides none to lend credence to their claim of a Venetian mercantile document signed by Francesco Lapi on May 4, 1537, for which Jim Z provided that excellent Federigo Melis citation (which, incidentally, also includes the correct date of May 4, 1536) – thanks for your work – and they also neglect to produce references for many of their other statements on this subject.

Wikipedia included some of our own Wordwizard naming suggestions (I like them one and all – strudel, snabel-a, an A with a little circle around it, . . . .), but for a name in keeping with the dignity of ‘ampersand,’ for example, and having some possible interesting historical roots, and having some melodiousness to it, I considered the two units of measure, the ‘arroba’ and ‘anfora,’ that one of the Wikipedia theories relates to the ancient Greek and Roman clay vessel for holding wine and oil, the amphora (although the OED doesn’t specifically provide any connection between amphora and ‘arroba’). But I am assuming that the Melis documents, do show that @ was used to mean anfora (or bottle) as Jim Z implies.

ARROBA: Unit of weight formerly used in Spanish-speaking countries, equal to about 11.3 kilograms (25 pounds); a unit of weight formerly used in Portuguese-speaking countries, equal to about 14.4 kilograms (32 pounds); a unit of liquid measure formerly used in Spanish-speaking countries, having varying value but equal to about 16.2 liters (17 quarts) when used to measure wine. [from Spanish., and ultimately an adaptation of Arab ‘ar-rub,’ the quarter,’ the weight being a quarter of the Spanish ‘quintal’ which derives from the 13th century Old French, from Spanish and Portuguese ‘quintal,’ from Italian, ‘from medieval Latin, ‘quintale,’ from Arabic ‘quintar.’ . . . – interesting that both of these hark back to Arabic. Since the introduction of the French metrical system in 1859, the ‘arroba’ has had no official existence in Spain. [[Note: 1) One of the Wikipedia theories has for the origin of @: “In the 1400s for the Spanish unit of weight arroba = ‘jar.’” 2) My Larousse Portuguese Pocket Dictionary (2003), in agreement with Wikipedia, defined ‘arroba,’ which was the only definition they gave: From computing, ‘at’]] (Oxford English Dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary)

ANFORA: Liquid measure held by a particular vessel/jar (Italian). [[I could not find this listed in any of the dictionaries I checked, but Jim Z’s above link, Wikipedia, and others seem to endorse it - a probable variation of the above-mentioned ancient Greek and Roman clay jar, the ‘amphora.’]]

Another website of unknown pedigree, which cites Wikipedia as a source, offers up some additional information, including a few more English @ names as well as a few more from other countries. I liked their ‘cinnabun’ or ‘cinnamon bun,’ ‘whorl,’ as well as ‘schnable’ (Hmm. I wonder if this is related to the Dane’s snable-a ‘elephant trunk A’ as mentioned above by Erik?) In case that link disappears (before we do – but we’ll never disappear!) here are their other offerings, some of which have been already mentioned: “bout; ampersat or asperand (compare ampersand); amphora; ape; arobase; atgry; cabbage; cat; cinnabun or cinnamon bun; commercial symbol; cyclone; each; mercantile symbol; rose; schnable; scroll or scroll-a; snail; strudel; these; vortex; whirlpool; or whorl.”

But, if I had to choose the one name for @ to stand tall next to the superior-sounding ampersand, I am in agreement with Jim Z and your choice of ANFORA, if, indeed, we need one at all other than the perfectly respectable AT. (&lt)
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Ken – July 28, 2007
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Post by Tony Farg » Sun Jul 29, 2007 1:47 pm

Shelley, you turn left at Chester. Or was that two whales?
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Post by zmjezhd » Sun Jul 29, 2007 5:05 pm

The etymology of Spanish arroba given in Meyer-Lübke's Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch is from Arabic rub‘. This means quarter, as in one quarter of a quintal (Arabic qintar, from Latin centenarius 'consisting of a hundred', cf. English hundredweight abbreviated cwt).
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 29, 2007 5:53 pm

so @ means arroba two quarters together.
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Post by trolley » Sun Jul 29, 2007 5:57 pm

I wish I had two quarters to arroba together.
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jul 29, 2007 6:01 pm

trolley wrote: "I wish I had two quarters to arroba together,"
he said, half-heartedly.
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Post by Meirav Micklem » Fri Aug 17, 2007 11:36 pm

Shelley, sorry it's taken me so long to answer - didn't look for a couple of days and then the site went into hibernation.

Anyway, if you still want to know how to get two elephants into a Mini (though I hope you haven't been losing sleep over it), the answer is quite simple:

One in the front and one in the back.
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Post by JANE DOErell » Sat Aug 18, 2007 9:11 pm

Safire today quotes someone has listing these words for @: In Czech, it would be Zavinac, “a herring wrapped around a pickle”; in Hebrew, Shabul or Shablool, “snail”; Mandarin Chinese, Xiao Lao Shu, “little mouse”; Russian, Sobachka, “doggie”; Thai, Ai tua yiukyiu, “wiggling worm.”
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:39 pm

Jane, Berale (a.k.a. #!$~*), et al. Well, it seems that even websites have to take a vacation now and then to allow their zeros and ones to go wherever they go to rest up and recuperate. And I’m sure you all notice the new crispness in all the site’s letters, lines, and symbols for having done so. (&lt)

For those interested, Safire’s source (in his On Language column in today's Sunday New York Times) for the above @ words is the book SEND: the essential guide to email for office and home (2007, Knopf, $20), by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe (op-ed editor of the New York Times and Hyperion Books' editor-in-chief), which discusses all things e-mail (etiquette, blunders, etc.). The above words for @, as the book mentions, were drawn from the excellent article ‘A Natural History of the @ Sign,’ which can be found at Herodios.com.
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Ken – August 19, 2007
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Post by Berale » Sun Aug 19, 2007 8:33 pm

And whilst we're at it, I feel it is my duty as a Berale to point out that there's an L missing in the Hebrew word "shablul" in Jane's posting. (shablul or shablool - two possible English spellings of the same Hebrew word, which means snail.)
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Post by Phil White » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:05 pm

Ken,

The article @ Herodios dates from 1997. Th@'s a very long time ago in terms of email. How many of us were emailing ten years ago. Be honest.

I can only say that the German is way out of date. You may have heard "Klammeraffe" or perhaps occasionally "Affenschwanz" up until about 5 years ago, but as far as email is concerned, they're both dead and buried. Nowadays, it's plain old "at" (pronounced "ett").

But for me, the name that beats them all is "didahdahdidahdit" (the symbol was added to Morse code in 2004 - preumably to allow nostalgic radio operators to exchange their email addresses).
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Post by Shelley » Sun Aug 19, 2007 11:55 pm

Meirav Micklem wrote: Shelley, sorry it's taken me so long to answer - didn't look for a couple of days and then the site went into hibernation.

Anyway, if you still want to know how to get two elephants into a Mini (though I hope you haven't been losing sleep over it), the answer is quite simple:

One in the front and one in the back.
Finally, I can look forward to a good night's sleep!
(I thought two elephants got into a mini only after you let out the seams.)
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:31 am

Phil, Whoa! Thanks for picking up on that. I hadn’t noticed that 1997 date. Here’s what Safire actually said:
<2007 “A sidebar in their punchy little book, drawn from the Web site (that’s archaic Times style for what the world has compressed to website) Herodios.com, compares the word for @ with what English speakers call ‘at.’ In Czech, it would be Zavinac, ‘a herring wrapped around a pickle’; . . . . .”—‘New York Times Magazine,’ On Language, 19 August>

I’m now supposing that what the authors of the above-mentioned book, SEND, probably did for their sidebar was choose a sampling of words (perhaps even just the one’s that Jane quoted) from the Herodios.com list, which they knew were still current. But not having seen the book and not knowing what is current and what isn't (other than the German from your observation), I’m not sure if they screwed up or not.
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Ken – August 19, 2007
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:40 am

.. Shelley and Meirav .. two elephants in a mini ?? .. throw in a bag of peanuts .. boom boom ..

Sahib WoZ
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Post by Berale » Wed Aug 22, 2007 6:20 pm

Now why didn't I think of that...
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