Grandma's Corner

@: At Sign or Ampersat?

At sign, @: At Sign or Ampersat?, Concrete Gems

The other day I was talking to a friend about Gemma’s development of a concrete “&” and “@”. I pronounced these as “ampersand” and “at sign”. My friend said that “@” should be called “ampersat”. This was a new word to me and so when I got home I did a bit of research.

My dad had taught me about ampersand and so I knew it was not a new word. The symbol dates back to Roman times. The word ampersand (according to Wikipedia) is a mix of English and Latin and according to the Guardian

  • Until as recently as the early 1900s, “&” was considered a letter of the alphabet and was listed after Z in 27th position. To avoid confusion with the word “and”, anyone reciting the alphabet would add “per se” (“by itself”) to its name. Therefore the alphabet ended “X, Y, Z and per se &”. This final “and per se and” eventually ran together, and the “ampersand” was born.

The @ used to be used when talking about things like prices, such as 6 tickets @ £1 each, and dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 1970’s as the World Wide Web was developing it was introduced as a way of presenting email addresses username@domain. It is now in universal use. Now I remember that happening and how much easier it came to access my email box. At the time I was studying Computer Science and went on to work in the area, and I never heard anyone use the word ampersat. Wikipedia suggests that ampersat is a modern suggestion from the 1990s. So I guess i will continue to pronounce @ as “at” or “at sign”.

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