General Question

MrItty's avatar

When did "@" start meaning "to"?

Asked by MrItty (17346 points ) September 15th, 2008

I’ve only started noticing this in the past several months, maybe a year or so. As far as I was aware ”@” is pronounced “at”. But now I’m seeing it more and more as a prefix to someone’s username. So that ”@Joe” seems to mean “To Joe: ...” When did this behavior begin?

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18 Answers

tWrex's avatar

I believe that it still means “at”. You’re addressing the person after the ”@” sign. So you’re saying, “At Mritty This is a good question.” See what I’m saying.

As far as how it started. I believe that the concept began when services like twitter began. When you wanted to reply to a friend on twitter you would put @username then your message and it would be a “reply” to them. Hope this explains it a bit.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

It dates back to the earliest days of the Internet, c. 1979. The idea was a user was at (@) his machine. It’s been around ever since.

robmandu's avatar

See Twitter.

By putting an @ in front of a person’s name there, then that person gets a copy of the tweet. So, on Twitter, it’s not only used to direct a comments at someone directly, but just even to talk about them in the 3rd person (and bring them into earshot).

waterbearer's avatar

I was wondering the same thing!

syz's avatar

In my head, I hear “at Joe”.

MrItty's avatar

syz, right, so do I. Maybe my dialect is weird, but “at Joe” just doesn’t make sense to me. The phrase is “To Joe”, in my mind. I guess maybe it’s short-hand for “Directed at Joe….”?

robmandu's avatar

@MrItty, I think you’re on the right track.

For myself on Fluther, there was a time when I preceded any one’s username with an @ so as to make it clear I was talking about a person. Since usernames need not have Proper Capitalization, my goal was to make it clear when I was referring to a @person, even if his/her name was something like a @verb, an @adjective, or @random_collection_of_letters.

We discussed that practice at length in some thread or other, and I’ve since accepted the proposal to simply bold the username of a person I’m talking about and not to.

loser's avatar

It still means “at” to me.

PupnTaco's avatar

@ MrItty: I read it as “at Mritty.”

Nimis's avatar

That hasn’t changed. It still means at. At just has more context.

justin5824's avatar

Since Twitter came arround!

MrMontpetit's avatar

To me @<persons name> would still mean At Joe. But if I think about it, it’s more like “Directed Towards Joe” I basically got it from twitter though, when you reply it says ”@Username”

BonusQuestion's avatar

@ means “at” to me. Apart from Fluther I have seen other places over the net that people use it for the same purpose. I never felt comfortable with this usage of @ though!

Nimis's avatar

Mritty: I actually prefer doing it this way instead. Not because I have anything against the @ sign. Mostly because (purely for aesthetics), I don’t like to begin my sentences with a sign. Not unlike how I hate beginning a sentence with a number too.

tWrex's avatar

@Nimis 1, I totally understand what you mean. 2, this annoys me too. 3, I’m still gonna do the @ thing because…. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m a bit autistic and don’t wanna change. Or just bullheaded. =)

Schenectandy's avatar

‘at sign’ doesn’t quite flow off the tongue. How about ‘swirly-Q’?

tedibear's avatar

Thank you for asking this! I had been wondering. If it helps, the @ sign is above the number 2 on the keyboard, so maybe we can pretend the person just hit the shift key? Of course, then we get into the whole annoying thing about using the number 2 to mean “to” in text speak and I don’t want to go there. :)

AxSqrd's avatar

See this Wikipedia article.

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