Leonardo Da Vinci, hacker

France names the @ symbol

France has decided that the “@” symbol will be called, in French, the “arobase”.

Though universally used by French Internet users, the word “arobase” is a neologism and needed the imprimatur of the General Committee on Terminology, which published its approval in the government’s official bulletin. According to the committee, the word “arobase” comes from “arrobe” - itself a derivative of the Arabic “ar-rub” meaning a quarter - which was an ancient Spanish and Portuguese unit of capacity and weight.

The committee, which five years ago failed to have the word “mel” adopted instead of e-mail, also approved three other terms Monday: “anneau de site” for Web ring, “site” for Web site, and “portail” for portal.

(I’m coming to this one late, and got it thanks to the Reason web site!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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