What To Call The @


The @ is called by many different names across the 28 member states of the EU – mainly animals. The map also locates curious clusters in which these animals congregate, as if certain climates are more favourable to certain imaginary creatures than to others. Electronic elephants seem to thrive only in Scandinavia, for example.

The Romance languages by and large stuck to the inanimate arroba, the pre-digital name for the @ sign in Spanish and Portuguese. That name is derived from the Arabic ar-rub, meaning a quarter – in this case, a measure of weight: 25% of what a donkey (or mule) could carry. In Spain, the customary weight of an arroba was 25 pounds (11.5 kg), in Portugal, 32 pounds (14.7 kg). On the map, we see these weights proliferate throughout the Iberian peninsula, but also in France and French-speaking Belgium (as arobase).

Continental Europe is otherwise dominated by digital monkeys, due to the likeness of the @ to a monkey tail curling around a tree branch. In Germany and Austria, the symbol is referred to as Klammeraffe. The word translates as ‘spider monkey’ – an American genus of monkey noted for its long tail. Klammer on its own can mean ‘bracket’, ‘staple’ or ‘paperclip’. The Klammeraffe shares Germany and Austria with the ordinary at. But in Poland, the małpa (‘monkey’) has the country to itself.

Dutch speakers in the Netherlands and Belgium refer to the @ as apenstaart(je), ‘(little) monkey tail’. In Luxembourgish, that becomes Afeschwanz.

The simian simile also proliferates throughout the Balkans: in Romanian, the @ is called coadă de maimuţă (‘monkey tail’), in Bulgarian маймунка (maimunka – ‘little monkey’). Croatians either use at or manki, a direct loan from the English ‘monkey’ (rather than the Croatian word for monkey, majmun). Their Slovenian neighbours call it an afna (‘little monkey’).

In Scandinavia, the elephant was seen as an apt metaphor for the curly a. In both Danish and Swedish, the @ is called snabel-a, with snabel meaning ‘[elephant’s] trunk’. Their Finnish neighbours offically call it at-merkki, but colloquially either kissanhäntä (‘cat’s tail’) or miukumauku (‘meow-meow’).

Czechs and Slovaks are united in their fishy metaphor for the @, finding in its curly appearance a similarity to zavináč, or ‘rollmops’ (rolled pickled herring fillets).

Italy is dominated by a chiocciola (‘snail’) riding up its boot. In Greece and Cyprus, the @ is rather enigmatically compared to a παπάκι (papaki – ‘duckling’).

The Baltics follow the English fashion, and say at. Not very imaginative perhaps, but less impalatable than the Hungarians, who say kukac, or ‘maggot’.

That concludes all the fauna on this delightfully weird map, but here are some other remarkable names for @ in other languages: Armenian: shnik (‘puppy’); Chinese: xiao laoshu (‘little mouse’); Japanese: naruto (after the tidal whirlpools in Naruto bay); Kazakh: aykulak (‘moon’s ear’); Norwegian: krøllalfa (‘curly alpha’); Russian: sobaka (‘dog’); Ukrainian: vukho (‘ear’).

Separable Verb


In Hungarian, Dutch and German, among compound verbs, we can distinguish between separable and inseparable verbs. The names speak for themselves: separable verbs can be split into a verb and a prefix (a preposition or adverb), inseparable verbs cannot.

Consider the Dutch verb aanvallen, which means ‘to attack’.

The verb is separated in the present tense:
Ik val aan, I attack; Hij valt aan, He attacks; Wij vallen aan, We attack.

Mostly, Dutch verbs are not separated in the future tense:
Ik zal aanvallen, I shall attack.

In the present perfect tense, an infix is inserted:
Ik heb aangevallen, I have attacked.

Finally, some Dutch verbs have differing vowels for the present tense and past participle, so the simple past of this separable verb becomes:
I viel aan, I attacked.

The Fool’s Mate


The Fool’s Mate, also known as the Scholar’s Mate, or Two-Move Checkmate, is the quickest possible checkmate in chess. There are a few variations; a prime example consists of the moves:

  1. f3 e5
  2. g4?? Qh4#

The pattern can have slight variations; for example White might open with 1. f4 instead of 1. f3 or move the g-pawn first, and Black might play 1. … e6 instead of 1. … e5.

The Fool’s Mate received its name because it can only occur if White plays extraordinarily weakly. Even among rank beginners, the mate almost never occurs in practice.

Nevertheless, the Fool’s Mate principle is known by different names around the world:

  • In French, Turkish, German, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese: Shepherd’s Mate
  • In Russian: Children’s Mate
  • In Italian: Barber’s Mate
  • In Persian, Greek and Arabic: Napoleon’s Plan
  • In Polish: Scholar’s Mate
  • In Danish, Hungarian, Slovenian and Hebrew: Shoemaker’s Mate
  • In Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and sometimes in Danish: School Mate

The Fool’s Mate has also occasionally been given other names in English, such as Schoolboy’s Mate and Blitzkrieg (German for ‘lightning war’, meaning a very short and quick engagement).

See other: Chess Traps