At Sign Preceding Names

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by jqavins, Jun 12, 2019 at 4:20 PM.

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  1. Jun 12, 2019 at 4:20 PM #1

    jqavins

    jqavins

    jqavins

    Joseph Avins

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    I see more and more, the at sign (@) used to address comments to a particular person. I don't like it. Has anyone seen this before Twitter, or it is all their fault? I mentioned this once before and someone told me "I don't mean it like Twitter; I mean it more in the original sense", or words to that effect. WTH?

    The original meaning, as far as I know, is to indicate something like a price, weight, or other quantity per unit of a thing, such as "5 units @ 2.38 lb. each, 11.90 lb. total" or "2 ozt of gold @ $1300/ozt, comes to $2600" or some such. This has been common for many, many decades, and the only use I'm aware of before email.

    Then came email. I want to send this message to John. But there are many Johns; I'm sending this to John at Rutgers, so john@rutgers.edu. And for a couple or three more decades, there is stayed as far as I ever saw.

    Occasionally, the symbol saw other uses, but only ever as a stand-in for the word "at". I've never encountered any other meaning before Twitter.

    I don't know why Twitter chose to use it as a prefix for user names, but I can guess. One could write "BillyBob" in a tweet and there'd be no way for the software to know that one meant to refer to a user. Something is needed to indicate that, some sort of flag. They could have used <BillyBob>, or &BillyBob, but they chose @BillyBob for reasons both unknown (to me) and unimportant. @ is as good as any character for the purpose. But in writing actual sentences and paragraphs of discourse, there is no need for such a flag character.

    If I wish to address the following sentence to Billy Bob, I will write:
    Billy Bob, this sentence is for you.
    An at sign here serves no purpose.

    So does this trend come from Twitter, or is someone else to blame?

    (And don't get me started on "hash tag".)
     
  2. Jun 12, 2019 at 4:25 PM #2

    Steve Shannon

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    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019 at 4:46 PM
  3. Jun 12, 2019 at 4:42 PM #3

    rharshberger

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    Now your just being silly....
    WTF ROTFL DILIGAF...

    Its all kind of silly and people are forgetting how to communicate without using cryptological training imo.
     
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  4. Jun 12, 2019 at 8:12 PM #4

    MikeyDSlagle

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    I was just thinking about this @ thing myself.
    When the "@" is used on this forum does the individual "tagged" get a ping, or message or some sort saying they have been "tagged"?
    I don't use twitter and have never hashtagged anything in my life. One of those things I dont understand nor do I care too.
     
  5. Jun 12, 2019 at 8:29 PM #5

    timbucktoo

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    Same goes for the pound (#) sign which is now a hashtag.
     
  6. Jun 12, 2019 at 8:46 PM #6

    neil_w

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    Yes indeed, they receive an alert. That's the point of using it, not just for the fun of inserting characters.

    Here, I will demonstrate by pinging myself: @neil_w (also, you get a nice autocomplete for filling out the rest of the username).

    ...and, I am getting no alert. Perhaps the forum won't allow you to send alerts to yourself.

    Here, I'll give everyone an alert to see what it does:
    @jqavins @MikeyDSlagle @timbucktoo @Steve Shannon @rharshberger.

    Now go check:
    upload_2019-6-12_15-49-8.png
     
  7. Jun 12, 2019 at 8:55 PM #7

    MikeyDSlagle

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    The only alert I got was telling me that you quoted my post.
    Nothing saying you tagged me.
    Screenshot_20190612-145353.png
     
  8. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:04 PM #8

    neil_w

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    Ah, it's a setting:
    upload_2019-6-12_16-4-29.png


    I would have thought that was turned on by default, maybe not. It should be, IMHO.
     
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  9. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:18 PM #9

    boatgeek

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    I believe that @ and # were used for email addresses and hashtags respectively because they were among the least used special characters on the 1-0 row on the keyboard. I would expect that Twitter took @ from email addresses, though I don't know that for sure. Of course, now those two symbols are probably among the most used...
     
  10. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:25 PM #10

    jqavins

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    Joseph Avins

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    OK, I was unaware that the forum software has this capability. Obviously, I don't have it turned on. In any case, regarding my statement that it serves no purpose here, I stand corrected.
    Well, at least that way I'd have been aware of it, having remembered the effort to track it down and turn it off.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019 at 10:01 PM
  11. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:37 PM #11

    Steve Shannon

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    I didn’t receive the notification either, even though I have it turned on on Tapatalk. I’ll go see if it is turned on for me on the TRF control panel. I suspect it is not.
     
  12. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:44 PM #12

    Steve Shannon

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    I was wrong. It was enabled there and in Tapatalk yet I did not receive a notification that someone mentioned me.
     
  13. Jun 12, 2019 at 9:45 PM #13

    MikeyDSlagle

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    Mine was already turned on. Doesn't seem to work.
     
  14. Jun 12, 2019 at 10:00 PM #14

    neil_w

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  15. Jun 12, 2019 at 10:00 PM #15

    neil_w

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    Someone please @ me, let me see if I'm getting them now
     
  16. Jun 12, 2019 at 10:01 PM #16

    jqavins

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    Joseph Avins

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    Well, @neil_w, this one's for you!

    In case there's some weirdness about not getting the notification when you're mentioned in a thread to which you're already subscribed, I just created a new thread in Area 51 and @ed you there too.
     
  17. Jun 12, 2019 at 10:09 PM #17

    neil_w

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    Got 'em both.

    Here are my alert preferences (I basically just left them all turned on except one that annoyed me). Trying to figure out what might be different about my configuration than anyone else's.

    upload_2019-6-12_17-8-28.png
     
  18. Jun 12, 2019 at 10:55 PM #18

    Nytrunner

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    Perhaps a backwards explanation for how it made sense for twitter/facebook/forums that apply @, is that your statement is "directed (at) a particular person"

    And so digital communication evolves leading to the common expression among folks my age, 'at me' to indicate "tag my handle with a message to let me know the plans/info/etc"
     
  19. Jun 13, 2019 at 12:40 AM #19

    jlabrasca

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    The @ preceding a username predates twitter. I think I remember seeing it on usenet. I know I saw it in BBS discussions back in the distant and dimly remembered days of dial-up.

    IIRC, It had two uses: @neil_w could be read aloud as "per neil_w". Its kind of a play on the original meaning of the the symbol: "price PER each"

    "per neil_w, there is a setting that will make the forum software bother you with email alerts every time somebody types your handle"

    It could also mean "(the following is) addressed to neil_w" -- with the obvious association of the @ appearing in email addresses.

    It is the latter usage that seems to have become canonical, although it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a quote from a directed reply.
     
  20. Jun 13, 2019 at 1:49 AM #20

    dhbarr

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    We always used ( and I still prefer ) "username:"

    But I'm accustomed to "@username" now too, as well as "+username" especially in an email thread.
     
  21. Jun 13, 2019 at 3:52 AM #21

    caveduck

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    There are many messaging systems besides Twitter and this one in which "@" has functional effect when tagging a user. Slack, HipChat (RIP), Jabber for sure and probably a bunch of others. It's standardized enough that the UI icon for user mention is usually the @ symbol. There are historic reasons for this choice in the evolution of command parsing software.
     
  22. Jun 13, 2019 at 4:16 AM #22

    Arsenal78

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    Facebook, before it accepted just typing in a name, used the @ symbol before a name to link/tag the person. It still works and is more reliable than just typing the name.
     
  23. Jun 13, 2019 at 1:13 PM #23

    jqavins

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    Both of those associations of @ preceding a user name are distorted, though that doesn't mean they aren't true. In the pricing example, the "per" is indicated by the slash: "quantity @ price/each" so the @ is just "at", indicating the numbers should be multiplied: quantity × price per each.

    In email addresses, the @ precedes the domain, not the username, which it follows.

    Finally, I see having hit reply that when you typed @neil_w, it was converted to {USER=23964}@neil_w{/USER} (brackets deliberately mistyped to make the tags nonfunctional) so the @ is really not necessary, though I can see that having the tag added automatically just by typing a single character would be convenient.
     
  24. Jun 13, 2019 at 4:20 PM #24

    jlabrasca

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    @jqavins - Pot-ay-tos, pot-ah-tos. You say distortion, I say metonymy.
     
  25. Jun 13, 2019 at 4:34 PM #25

    neil_w

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    Learned a new word today, woohoo!
     
  26. Jun 13, 2019 at 6:59 PM #26

    jqavins

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    Joseph Avins

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    Hey, jlabrasca, I just looked up metonymy (which I don't often find necessary, so good on you) and must say I'm confused. Now, dictionaries are descriptive, not proscriptive, but this description isn't of a word that is applicable here unless one of us has misunderstood the other, and I can't guess which.
    The substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing.
    Where has either of us done this?

    But then, it's really not important.
     
  27. Jun 13, 2019 at 8:13 PM #27

    shreadvector

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  28. Jun 14, 2019 at 4:37 AM #28

    jlabrasca

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    I can answer this in exactly two [2] ways:

    1) My recollection of the linguistics class I took to satisfy a social science distribution as an undergraduate is unreliable. Regarding the lecture on semantic drift, the words "metonymy", "synecdoche", and "antonomasia" are all I really remember and -- without recourse to the textbook (long since packed away) -- I could not define any of them.

    2) [In a rather scornful tone] When I use a word it means just what I choose it mean -- neither more nor less...Impenetrability! That's what I say.

    3) There is probably a more apt term for the kind of semantic change by which a word takes on the meaning of a word to which it appears adjacent in some phrase or figure of speech, but I do not know it. English is a living language, however, and the meanings of words change (referred to as "semantic drift"). In years to come, the OED will refer to this forum post as the first attestation of metonymy as: [computer science or internet]: the appropriation of a character or symbol used for one purpose to signify a similar, but functionally distinct, purpose. e.g. the use of the @ symbol preceding a user name to signal a comment directed to a particular individual on an open forum, borrowed from the @ that follows a username (and precedes a domain name) in an email address"
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019 at 5:07 AM
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