Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

@ is usually pronounced as "at", but it seems @ is a verb when it means Twitter somebody, like:

@Tom for more information.
Tweet Tom for more information.
Contact Tom for more information.

But not:

At Tom for more information.

Right?

share|improve this question
    
I don't believe this is an "appropriate" use of the @ symbol in Twitter's context. @Tom may mean either just the user "Tom" on Twitter or "At Tom", but using it to mean "contact Tom on twitter" doesn't make sense. They're leaving out a verb. –  Ben Brocka Nov 4 '11 at 0:14
    
Further reading: support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/… Using @username is a mention or a reply, even in Twitter lingo it does not constitute "contact this person" it just means "at this person" –  Ben Brocka Nov 4 '11 at 0:36
2  
Just a note on the Twitter version: Twitter has introdueced a verb to use for this; "tweet". So your second line there would be "Tweet Tom for more information." –  awe Nov 4 '11 at 8:07
1  
Just a note on writing @Tom in the first place: The username itself is just Tom -- he logs in with Tom and not @Tom. His profile is at http://twitter.com/Tom, not http://twitter.com/@Tom. You only need to write @Tom when sending a message on Twitter, or mentioning him on Twitter and you want him to know about it. When writing outside Twitter, it can also be used as shorthand to indicate a Twitter username, but it's not essential in this case. –  Hugo Nov 4 '11 at 10:46
    
@aws: Correct, it should be tweet. –  Xiè Jìléi Nov 5 '11 at 1:49
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Technically, @ is always pronounced as at because that is what it stands for. Nevertheless, @John can mean different things in different contexts, such as contact John. Read it the way you would be best understood.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think the @ symbol may originally have been used for this exact purpose, actually. To my knowledge it was originally used in e-mail, where the writer was supposed to think of a person as being 'at' a particular place; so, when writing the e-mail as To john@berkeley.edu, the writer could be thinking they were writing to John at Berkeley educational institute.

With Twitter (and other systems which prefix usernames with @), the meaning changes a little, in that the @ is no longer prefixing the person's location, but the person themselves. However, when addressing a message to a person, it could conceptually be substituted with the word 'at' and still make sense.

I'm tweeting the message at John216.

So in the above sentence, 'at' is performing a double task of both being a preposition, and indicating that the @ character begins the person's username. Of course in English, you'd generally use 'to' instead of 'at' there, but language evolves. In addition, the word 'at' may be convenient to indicate that there is a subtle difference between tweeting 'at' someone and saying something 'to' someone; with a tweet, you're kind of doing a "fire and forget"; you don't know whether the person will read the message, but you're addressing it to them. If you say something 'to' someone, you know they're hearing the message.

Maybe sending online messages 'at' usernames will become a new common expression?

share|improve this answer
    
+1 Great information on the usage of 'at', very helpful for me. –  Xiè Jìléi Nov 5 '11 at 1:50
1  
It’s “original” on the internet, but not in real life—the @ sign used to denote “each at” or “at the rate of” on invoices, e.g., “1 dozen apples @ 60¢”. –  Jon Purdy Nov 5 '11 at 2:23
add comment

"@Tom" just means "Twitter account Tom"

If you want to say contact Tom, you should write something like:

Tweet @Tom for more information - the @ is always pronounced 'at'

share|improve this answer
add comment

Perhaps, "tweet Tom," or "tweet at Tom."

share|improve this answer
1  
"Tweet Tom" would be the right form, as Twitter has introduced as the way to say it. –  awe Nov 4 '11 at 8:08
    
-1, this doesn't actually answer the question. –  Hugo Nov 4 '11 at 10:48
    
Thanks, I've modified the line. –  Xiè Jìléi Nov 5 '11 at 1:52
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.