Global Lingo Blog

What do you call the little symbol in your email address?

Personally I call it the ‘At symbol’; apparently its official name in English is ‘Commercial at’. The oldest use of the symbol is thought to be during the era of the Italian merchants.

But what do non English speakers call that little symbol we rely so much on these days? Here’s a quick rundown courtesy of the h2g2 site on the BBC.

  • The Germans call it klammeraffe (spider monkey).
  • The Dutch, apestaartje (monkey’s tail).
  • Danes refer to it as grisehale (pig’s tail) or snabel (with an elephant’s trunk).
  • Finnish people call it kissanhanta (cat’s tail), which sometimes goes one step further to become miukumauku – the meow sign!
  • Hungarians see it as the worm or maggot, kukac.
  • The Thai word translates as ‘the wiggling worm-like character‘.
  • Czechs call it zavinac, which is a rollmop herring.
  • The Hebrew term is strudel, the famous Viennese apple pastry.
  • The word Pita, a type of bread, is often used in Israel.
  • Swedes use kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) and snabel-a (a with a trunk).
  • The French go with escargot which translates as snail.

Just goes to show that even something as small as a single @ character can cause confusion if incorrectly translated. And this one is particularly important because without it we wouldn’t have the communications revolution we’re sat in the middle of.

 

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