From: Joachim Feise (email@example.com)
Date: Mon Jan 24 2000 - 21:55:50 PST
Eugene Leitl wrote:
> Joachim Feise writes:
> > @, Klammeraffe (literal translation: clinging monkey), German
> Not clinging monkey, spider monkey.
The link to the German Zeit article that I posted earlier today referred to
an entry in the Linguist List, which (of course) resulted in a 404.
I now did a search for the list, and found the referred entry at
For the German translation, the list provides both mine and Eugene's.
Finally, the @ summary! So sorry it's taken so long, but I
hope you will find it worth the wait. I sure had fun with this. The
creativity that blossomed (one Turkish source calls @ a 'rose') from
one little @ is breathtaking.
Data came in for the following 37 languages: Afrikaans,
Arabic, Cantonese, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian,
Farsi, Finnish, French, Frisian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian,
Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Mandarin
Chinese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian,
Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, and Turkish. There
is an expectedly heavy bias in this mix toward languages of Europe (26
of the 37 languages) and other more technologically advanced
regions. The response from the Netherlands was positively
In one case, Tamil, the question definitely seemed to
influence the data - members of the Tamil list are *still* talking
about the best term to use for @!
A broad spectrum of metaphors, some very concrete and others
relatively abstract, is used to describe @, ranging from animals and
body parts (e.g. Chinese 'little mouse', Danish 'elephant's trunk',
Dutch 'monkey's tail', French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean 'snail',
Hungarian 'worm/maggot', Russian 'little dog', Swedish 'cat's foot',
Arabic, German, Turkish, 'ear') to food (e.g. Hebrew 'strudel',
Swedish 'cinnamon bun', Czech/Slovak 'collared herring/rollmop') to
letters of an alphabet (e.g. Norwegian 'curled alpha', Tamil _du_;
and the more abstract French, Italian, Russian 'commercial "a"',
Serbian 'crazy "a"'); some are direct borrowings (e.g. Icelandic,
Cantonese) or translations (e.g. Romanian, Greek) of the English 'at';
and there are a few variants of the Spanish weight measure _arroba_,
(e.g. Catalan _arrova_/_rova_, French _arobase_).
There are interesting patterns of influence, sometimes within
a language family or subfamily, sometimes within a geographical area,
and sometimes from dominant cultures (the English 'at' turns up in
several disparate languages).
Much more could be said, but I will let those interested
figure it out for themselves from the data!
Karen Steffen Chung
National Taiwan University
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