Re: String name and Character Name

From: Philippe VERDY (
Date: Sat Apr 30 2005 - 10:02:36 CST

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    > Message du 30/04/05 00:31
    > De : "JFC (Jefsey) Morfin" <>
    > A : "Philippe Verdy" <>,, "Andrew C. West" <>
    > Copie &agrave; :
    > Objet : Re: String name and Character Name
    > At 23:06 29/04/2005, Philippe Verdy wrote:
    > >Don't forget the well-known traditional name for "@" in French: "une
    > >arrobace" (normally feminine in typographic language like for the term
    > >"une espace", but many French users think these terms are masculine, so
    > >their genre is now ambiguous... unless one makes the distinction between
    > >the typographic usage that designates the glyph or an implementation of
    > >this glyph in a page layout, and the other usages where it just designates
    > >the abstract character in some text).
    > eternal dispute. Nevertheless your description does not match my French
    > (what is a good point in favor of what I try to make the WG-ltru
    > understand: languages are more complex than just a langtag).
    > I personally use "arobase" (Google seems to confirm it is the most used in
    > a 100 to 1 proportion) and pronounce it "arobase" or "a commercial" when
    > people do not catch my "ad" which is the correct meaning, pronunciation and
    > intent (a in a d) like the perluette (et - t linked to an et).

    This is definitely not a correct way tro write it. It is found only in texts that try to give an approximate phonetic notation for it. Also see below. Note that the "Petit Robert" only lists "arrobe" or "arobe" to designate the typograpic symbol.

    Note that there's a strong difference between the name of a character (here meant as a abstract glyph or symbol) and the way it is pronounced in sentences that use them.

    So "@" is in close relation, when pronounced with the Latin term "ad" (some French linguists insist that the Latin term should be used instead of "at", noting that the English term is directly coming from Latin "ad" too, and also the very similar look of the typography to write the Latin term "ad" in Old Mediaval texts).

    > That "@" was used as the sign of the weigh "arroba" is another story, like
    > $ for the peso (the flag on a pole, sign of gold) the pound copied to show
    > they also had gold the story says, copied with a second richer strike to
    > make it a dollar sign for the Thaler. Two strikes copied in the Yen and now
    > in Euro sign.
    > >It was also commonly named "a commercial" in the past, but the expression
    > >is now deprecated.
    > Then my kids are deprecated. When you are more than 15 you are totally
    > outdated nowadays....

    This just depends of usage environment. "a commercial" is very much related
    to the "et commercial" that commonly names the "esperluète" or "éperluète"
    (the ampersand sign). But once you realize that "&" and "@" have very
    distinct usage patterns, it seems ridiculous to match these signs with a
    common designation pattern.

    > >Those French users that use "@" in email addresses now pronounce it "at"
    > >like in English, some are resisting and use the french usual preposition
    > >"à" when spelling these addresses orally...).
    > >
    > >Despite this, for now, I have not heard or read any expression like "le
    > >signe at" in French text or speech. So "un (une) arrobace" is still used
    > >everywhere when not spelling an email addresses or related technical
    > >syntaxes (but many don't know how to write "arrobace" correctly -- some
    > >even write "arobasse" -- and this orthographic difficulty may be one
    > >reason why the old oral expression "a commercial" still persists in French
    > >on the written form).
    > I understand it is the AFNOR standard.

    Not the standard of linguists. Initialliy "arrobe" (also written with a single r, given that this was a term imported from Spanish or Catalan) should be the correct term.

    Its origin comes from the Spanish (and Portuguese) term "arroba" which was a volume or weight measure unit (11.5 kg to 15 kg, or 10 to 15 liters, varying with the type of product measured. So its *plural* form was "arrobas" (with the final s pronounced as in Spanish), before it was modified to match with French orthographic rules, when the concept of plural was lost.

    The Spanish term "arroba" was a quarter of a "Spanish real", and meant "one quarter" of this last unit.

    >>> Note that the Spanish real had a similar sign looking like
    >>> an italic r within a loop. Where is this "real sign" in Unicode?

    The Spanish term "arroba" comes from Arabic "al reba'a" (meaning: one quarter) or "reba'a" (meaning: fourth) which was dialectalized in Iberic usage into "ar-roub". The Spanish arroba (and the real) is no more a unit measure since Spain adopted the metric system in 1859.

    So the Spanish name "arroba" designates the old usage of the character to represent the measure unit. As this usage has been forgotten and replaced by another meaning "at" (in more close relation with the initial typography of the Latin term "ad", from which it has now restored its semantic), it remains now the Spanish term "arroba" used only to designate the typographic symbol.

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