Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Internet Star @ Least 473 Years Old

Internet Star @ Least 473 Years Old - The Lede Blog - NYTimes.com

Because it is used in every e-mail address and many tweets, you might be forgiven for thinking that the remarkably common symbol @, which English-speakers know as the “at sign,” but Italians call a “snail,” and south Slavs know as a “monkey,” is a fairly recent invention. In fact, as Wired magazine’s Tony Long points out, a Florentine merchant named Francesco Lapi used the symbol @ in a letter written 473 years ago today, on May 4, 1536.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported in 2000 that Giorgio Stabile, who was then a professor of the history of science @ La Sapienza University in Rome, had come across the symbol in the merchant’s letter, where it was used to indicate an ancient measure of weight or volume, an amphora.

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