[texhax] "@" : vowel or glottal stop ? (was : Some puzzling TeX)

Paul Isambert zappathustra at free.fr
Sat Feb 19 13:15:57 CET 2011

Le 19/02/2011 12:56, Uwe Lueck a écrit :
> "Philip Taylor (Webmaster, Ret'd)"<P.Taylor at rhul.ac.uk>  wrote 19.02.2011 11:37:16:
>> I have never understood (and continue to fail to understand)
>> why, when Don made it quite clear in Plain.TeX that "@" is a
>> vowel,
> where? how? How are \thr@@, \count@, \prim at s, \pr at m@s, \pr@@@s pronounced?

Respectively: thratat, countat, primats, pratmats, pratatats. Old 
Indo-European words, obviously.
(@ is neither a vowel nor a consonant, it's a syllable.)

>> Leslie and his followers insist on treating it as
>> a glottal stop.  Why one earth did they use the horribly
>> ugly :
>> 	\@firstofone
>> instead of the far more intuitive and elegant :
>> 	\first at fone
> In general, I have several questions like that
> and sometimes wonder where I could ask them and when.
> Recently I learnt that \@car and \@cdr "quote" from Lisp
> -- I had often wondered before. Another urgent question:
> Who was the professional graphic designer who created
> the design (of \maketitle, \section, ...) of the LaTeX standard classes?
> ...

That could become really nasty, I'll refrain from answering. Phil should 

> My impression of LaTeX internals is:
> 1. LaTeX just has many more internal control sequences than Plain TeX.
> 2. In the first instance, the idea in using `@' seems to be
> keeping the control sequence readable.
> \@firstofone is easier to read, while \first at fone rather is a joke
> that may take some second to be understood.

Oh no, that's not a joke. "Firstatfone" is an old proto-Germanic word 
meaning "Identity".

> 3. Another principle might have been that, for a package (incl.
> latex.ltx ...) writer, internal control sequences should be easy
> to remember. With \first at fone, the question arises whether
> it was \first at f@ne, or \firstof at ne, ...

Then users should know their old languages. "Firstatfatne" and 
"firstofatne" are but regional variants.


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