What was @ used for before email and Twitter? Why did someone invent a shorthand way of writing such a little word? Has the symbol got its own special name?

While not exactly keeping me awake at night, these kind of questions do play on my mind, so I’ve done some research!

According to the internet, one possible origin was that it was created by monks who would copy manuscripts by hand. The swirly swoosh round the ‘a’ took fewer strokes than a ‘t’, saving time and ink.

We call it the ‘at symbol’, but other languages are far more inventive. In Dutch it’s apenstaartje (monkey’s tail); in Danish it’s snabel (elephant’s trunk); German calls it klammeraffe (hanging monkey); in Russian it’s sobachka (little dog). I’m sensing an animal theme here – any ideas for a new English term?

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