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’).

Portuguese Proverbs

É de pequenino que se torce o pepino.

“It’s when it’s small that the cucumber gets warped.”

  • Meaning: Bad habits acquired during early life last long; children should learn moral habits from a tender age.
  • Ganho, Ana Sofia; McGovern, Timothy Michael (2004). Using Portuguese: A Guide to Contemporary Usage. Cambridge University Press. p. 89.

A necessidade não tem lei, mas a da fome sobre todas pode.

“Necessity has no law.”

  • English equivalent: idem.
  • Mawr, E.B. (1885). Analogous Proverbs in Ten Languages. p. 60.

Muita palha e pouco grão.

“Much ado about nothing.”

  • English equivalent: Much bran and little meal.
  • Strauss, Emanuel (1994). “178”. Dictionary of European Proverbs. II. Routledge. p. 173. 

Quem não arrisca não petisca.

“He who doesn’t take a chance won’t nibble.”

  • Meaning: If you don’t try, or take the risk, you can’t have any profit.
  • English Equivalent: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Taylor, Martin (1970). A Portuguese-English dictionary: revised. University Press. p. 72.

Odd Words (ii)

postrēmōgenitus‏ (m.) [adj.]

  • last-born.

xan (m.) [noun.]

  • a man who lets himself be controlled by anyone else.

sfuriunâz (m.) [noun.]

  • someone who does things hastily or imprecisely.

Old Norse
íviðja (f.) [noun.]

  • a giantess, ogress.

Old English
snoru (f.) [noun.]

  • daughter-in-law.

inkill [noun.]

  • an ornamental garden.

grenha (f.) [noun.]

  • tangled, messy or uncombed hair.

See other: Odd Words

Interesting Portuguese

cabisbaixo [adjective.]

  • having one’s head turned down, due to sadness.

morrer na praia [verb.]

  • (idiomatic) to fail after trying hard and almost succeeding. Literally: “to die on the beach.”

nem que a vaca tussa [adverb.]

  • (idiomatic) definitely not; by no means; not in a million years. Literally: “not even if the cow coughs.”

pedra no sapato (f.) [noun.]

  • a minor but constant problem; an annoyance. Literally: “a stone in the shoe.”

See other: Admin’s Choice Posts

Odd Words (i)

Old English
dūstscēawung (f.) [noun.]

  • viewing or contemplation of dust.

mustadûra [noun.]

  • the act of treading on grapes.

desengaño (m.) [noun.]

  • realization of the truth, especially after a period of deceit.

maywaq [noun.]

  • he who caresses.

huhu [noun.]

  • breast; breasts; teat;
  • fork.

mania [adjective.]

  • (of the sea or weather) calm;
  • (figuratively) serene, tranquil, peaceful (state of mind).

allpayay [verb.]

  • to become soil.

hen [pronoun.]

  • (neologism) a personal pronoun of unspecified gender; an alternative to “hon” (she) or “han” (he).

Tante-Emma-Laden (m.) [noun.]

  • mom-and-pop grocery store, mom-and-pop convenience store.

шпионома́ния (špionománija) (f.) [noun.]

  • spy mania, spy fever (paranoia about spies, fearmongering about the threat of foreign spies).

Old Norse
hundrað (n.) [noun.]

  • a long hundred (120).

rupsahtaa [verb.]

  • to lose one’s beauty or handsomeness, especially regarding the shape and firmness of body.

esgatinyar-se [verb.]

  • to fight mutually using scratches, in the manner of cats;
  • (figuratively) to have a catfight.

pekoral (f.) [noun.]

  • a text written in a grandiloquent or pompous style but lacking literary quality, thus making it seem overly pretentious or ridiculous.

arborēscō [verb.]

  • I become a tree.

Tok Pisin
long [preposition.]

  • used to mark spatial direct objects that something is oriented in the manner of, where English would use to, toward, into, or onto;
  • used to mark spatial direct objects that something is oriented in the location of, where English would use in, at, on, or near;
  • used to mark indirect objects, or direct objects of intransitive verbs, where English would use to;
  • used to mark spatial direct objects that something is oriented in the manner opposite of, extracted from, or away from, where English would use from or out of.

See other: Odd Words

The Rush of Language

‘Latin is the being, French the thought, Spanish the fire, Italian the air (I said ‘aether’ of course), Catalan the earth, and Portuguese the water.’

Nooteboom C. 1991. Het Volgende Verhaal [The Next Story] Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers (1991) p. 28

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

Saudade [Noun.]

In Portuguese, the feeling of missing something or someone. Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.