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The @ Symbol and Its Many Noms De Internet

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There are lots of creative names for the @, also known in English as the at-sign. In Denmark and Sweden, it’s sometimes called the snabel-a, or “elephant trunk.” In Italian, it’s a chiocciola, or “snail. In Greek, it’s a παπάκι, or “little duckling.” In German, it’s sometimes called a Klammeraffe or “spider monkey,” for the way it resembles such a monkey’s clinging tail. In Hebrew, it’s known colloquially as a “strudel,” or שְׁטְרוּדֶל, a name that likens the @ to a swirled cake. In the Middle Ages, this symbol was used in commerce in Spain and Portugal, where it was called the arroba. For a lively history of the use of the @ from its origins to its introduction in email addresses, check out Keith Houston’s delightful book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. (Bookshop|Amazon) This is part of a complete episode.

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