With plenty of international staff and customers, we love celebrating the differences in cultures we experience every day. We already looked at some of the idioms our international colleagues use, though we’re also no stranger to the unique punctuation and symbols that can crop up in other languages. For example, questions in Spanish will begin with an inverted question mark, as well as a regular one to end it, and German words can use the scharfes ‘S’ to note long ‘s’ sounds.
From email to social media, the @ character has truly become a worldwide symbol. In English, we simply call it the ‘at sign’, but after polling our international team we found there are some strangely creative names for it around the globe.
We’ve dabbled with our fair share of whiteboard art, but this time enlisted the help of the tremendously talented Andres Lozano to bring these quirky names to life through his amazing illustrating skills. These are the results!
While the Dutch often use the simple ‘at’ description, it is also compared
to a curly monkey’s tail grabbing a tree branch.
Elephant’s Trunk ‘A’
In Denmark they borrow a larger member of the animal kingdom, comparing the symbol to an elephant’s trunk.
Certainly one of the cuter entries on our list, the symbol is called a ‘duckling’
in Greek due to its similarity with comic designs for ducks (specifically their
Bringing a culinary taste to our research, @ is called ‘strudel’ in
Israel. This is likely due to the outer circle encasing the main ‘a’ segment,
much like how strudel pastry contains a fruit filling.
Over in Sweden they also use a sweet treat to refer to the @ symbol,
this time choosing ‘cinnamon bun’. Just one look at those delicious cinnamon
swirls and it’s easy to see why!
There is more swirling imagery in Japan, as they borrow a term for
whirlpools found in a channel between the city of Naruto and Awaji Island.
In China, the name of the @ symbol is more literal, with several older names translating as ‘circled a’ or ‘enclosed a’. We prefer another variation, ‘lacy a’, thanks to the flick at the end of the symbol.
Turning to the stars for inspiration, @ is called a ‘moon’s ear’ in
Kazakhstan. In fact, many of us were so used to seeing it as a circled ‘a’,
we’d never thought it looks just like an ear!
Badly Written Letter
While not as matter-of-fact as our ‘at sign’, Bulgaria certainly doesn’t seem to look favourably on the @. Pronounced ‘klyomba’, you can only imagine the confusion if someone asked you to write ‘a badly written letter’ every time you wanted to tag someone in a comment.
Know any other symbols or punctuation that have fun names in your native language? Let us know on Twitter at @viking_chat.