One of The Vendor’s guys-on-site just stopped by to ask me to email him some things. He just came onto the project, and I didn’t know his email address yet, so as I prepared the email, he dictated his address to me. As he spelled out each letter, I typed it in, until he said something that sounded just like “adder-oit”. I asked him to repeat it twice, and both times, it sounded just like “adder-oit”. Oh shit, I thought, maybe it’s one of those letters that has a weird translation, and he can’t remember what it is in English. Like ‘eegreck’ in French means the letter ‘y’. He realized I was confused, leaned over, and typed ‘@’.

“Oh!” I said, “you mean, ‘adroit’? Is that the name you use for the ‘at’ symbol? We just call it ‘at’.” I figured it was one of those fancy names for symbols, like ‘ampersand’ for ‘&’ – easy to forget, and not used all that often in the States. [Remember, Indians typically learn to speak British English, not American, so it would make sense that they learned some things like that. At least, in my version of the world it does.]

“No,” he explained, “we call it ‘at the rate’.” He had to say it a few times for me to get it, but suddenly, I had a mental image of markets, selling stuff: “3 @ $1 ea”, that kind of thing. After a laugh, he sent me some background info on @, which I Googled: here’s the original.