Email use has become so ubiquitous that it's easy to assume that its use and customs are universal. But not so. Two items recently drove home the point of how local email usage is.
First, I came across the innocent question "What do you call the little symbol in your email address?" on the Global Lingo Blog. Hmmm, good question!
In many non-English languages, @ was much less common before email and is often seen in as being integrally linked to "The Internet", computerization, or maybe modernization in general. Who would suspect that @ is more than 500 years old?
It's interesting to note the following sample usages:
- The French go with escargot which translates as snail.
- The Dutch, use apestaartje (monkey's tail).
- Germans used to call it something similar - klammeraffe (spider monkey) but the English "at" is gaining ground.
- Danes refer to it as grisehale (pig's tail) or snabel (with an elephant's trunk).
- In Georgian it is "at" (using the English pronunciation).
- Hungarians see it as the worm or maggot, kukac.
- The Hebrew term is strudel, after the pastry.
- In Korean it is called golbaeng-i, a small freshwater snail with no tentacles.
Speaking of Korean, that brings us to the second item. In a recent discussion on LinkedIn [free registration required], Joshua Choi recounted some examples of local email customs:
In Korea, we use "k k k" which is not "kill kill kill" or "Ku Klux Klan" but for a sound of laughing. We also use "^^" for smiling eyebrows, and ^^; for smiling and sweating (when you are smiling but little embarrased). I heard "555" means "ha ha ha" in Thailand, and 555+ means "loud laughing". I also heard @+ means "see you" in France.Together with the responses that the query generated, one could develop a "mini international guide to email acronyms" - ROTFL!
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