I am trying to understand the use of the arroba in colloquial Spanish and Portuguese. From a related post in which I asked about the written expression:

@advertencia

in the Spanish SE, the response seemed to be that it was a slang way to denote a threat, sort of like an exclamation point ("Warning!"), but most of the respondents seem to be unaware of it and one from Spain said it was not used this way in Spain at all.

What about Brazil? Is the arroba used to indicate emphasis in colloquial Portuguese as used in Brazil?

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    Do you have any real-life examples? – Ramon Melo Dec 8 '16 at 21:09
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    Correction: everybody there was anware of such use. Here's the @advertencia question in Spanish SE. And all the respondent really says is "it sounds like a random character used to emphasize what goes next" and "I do believe that it was used just as a character to express attention". – Jacinto Dec 8 '16 at 22:41
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    I am Brazilian and I have never seen this, except to create things like emojis (usually shortcuts in programs like Skype). In Portuguese this has no meaning, could you give a real example (link)? – Guilherme Nascimento Dec 9 '16 at 14:23

I've never, ever seen anyone using the @ sign with that intention. A lengthy search on the most popular social networks also did not yield any results (in fact, using @ on them has proved itself quite problematic).

The only two reasonably common colloquial usages of this sign are:

  1. For mentions to another individual, as it is usual in English-speaking countries (@Tyler Durden);

  2. For gender-neutral nouns and adjectives, since most of them in Portuguese are gendered. This is a rather recent issue raised by modern feminists, for political reasons. Even amongst them, this habit is not unanimous, and many of them oppose it. From the Manual para o Uso Não Sexista da Linguagem:

Enquanto a linguagem continuar carregada de estereótipos, não convém dissimular a visibilidade das mulheres. Por isso é importante evitar as barras diagonais: ”oferece-se trabalho a costureira/o”. Não se devem usar parênteses “buscamos um (a) advogado (a)”. Nesse mesmo sentido é preciso eliminar os símbolos que não são legíveis ou que não é verdadeiramente representação do feminino: querid@s amig@s ou todxs juntxs.

A rough translation would be:

While the language remains loaded with stereotypes, it is not appropriate to conceal women visibility. Therefore, it is important to avoid slashes: "waiter/ress needed". On the same page, it is also essential to remove signs that are either unreadable, or not a true representation of women: "@he" or "xhe".

Keep in mind this book is not condoned by most linguists and authorities in Brazil, and it is merely meant as a guide for activists and the general population.

Whenever Brazilians feel the need to emphasize something in written colloquial language (assuming bold, italic, colored, and larger font sizes are unavailable), they'll either CAPITALIZE IT or !!! spam exclamation marks !!!. Using the @ sign with this goal would not be understood by the majority of the population, and would most likely go unnoticed.

  • "spoke and said" (lol) +1. – Centaurus Dec 8 '16 at 22:47
  • Arroba ou é usada para indicar nome de perfil em redes sociais, ou para substituir a letra a em nomes estilizados. – André Lyra Dec 20 '16 at 13:37

I noticed you asked particularly about its usage in Brazil. I'm from Portugal, but I can tell you this: growing up, people from my generation (I am now 20 years old) used to talk via the software "Messenger" all the time (I don't know if you know about this software). It was kind of the new mIRC for us. There, to type the "angry emoji", something like this 😡, we had to type ":@". Whether it evolved later to be used the way you describe, I don't know. In the end, I suggest you try to spot the age of the people who use the arroba like that. If they're (18-28), it might be due to the ol' good "Messenger" days.

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    Since emoji render differently since they creating back in Japan, and still render differently in (almost) 2017, with UTF, I recommend the link to emojipedia.org/pouting-face. On my system, it renders as Facebook's "sad face" smiley. The :@ was typed because it was the shortcut used. It could be configured to be something else, like >:(. Also, the correct name is "Microsoft Messenger", renamed later on to "Windows Live Messenger". Also, just the @ used to be a kiss, since typing (kiss) was too long. Maybe @advertencia could be understood like that!? – Ismael Miguel Dec 9 '16 at 2:21

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