That @ symbol

Bob Haas highbob at MINDSPRING.COM
Wed Jun 28 20:40:05 UTC 2000

I learned that "@" means "at . . . apiece."  This was in a typing class that
I was forced to take because I didn't get industrial arts, so I didn't get
to make that tooled saddle that I wanted.  I therefore had no choice but to
become a writer and word mechanic, instead of the cowboy that I think I was
meant to be.  Sigh.

But back to the topic at hand, I've never heard of the "approximate" sense
of "@."  It's incorrect as far as I'm concerned, the result of a wrongheaded
notion that it's better to never ask anyone what something means.  I know
that sounds terribly prescriptivist, but I'm feeling a little testy today.
This wouldn't happen if I were out on the range.

BTW, how widespread is that wrongheaded "approximate" usage for "a"?  Jiminy
Cricket, that symbol really DOES need a name!  Whirlpool is good, so is
whorl.  But I think we need to refer to its usage.  How about at-thingy?
At-whirl?  At-stop?  At-ma?  Atem?  At'em?  At-point?  At-taché?  A-pool?
A-hole?  (The kids would love that one.)  At-twitter?  Ats-a-good-one!
Someone keep it going.

> From: "Lyons, Jennifer M" <jlyons at NETMARKETGROUP.COM>
> Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 12:24:48 -0400
> Subject: Re: That @ symbol
> Interesting!  I only remember being taught that it was a merged way to write
> "ad" (like the ampersand is for "et").  We learned circa as either a c. or a
> ~.  I grew up in Pittsburgh, and never saw anyone use @ to mean
> "approximately"; here in Ohio, I have run across a few instances of that
> usage.  (If it counts for anything, I was born in 1979.)

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