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E-Mail's 'at' Sign Often Lost in Translation
E-Mail's 'at' Sign Often Lost in Translation
Israel's Strudel Is Sweden's Elephant Trunk When It Comes To The Hardworking 'at' In E-mail
(AP) The squiggly little "at" symbol that makes our e-mail go is more colorful in translation.
It's an elephant's trunk in Sweden. A monkey in Serbia - and a more, ahem, delicate part of the monkey in Holland. It's a snail in Korea, a little mouse in Taiwan.
In any language, it's come a long way since it was plucked from obscurity by e-mail godfather Ray Tomlinson back in computer-heady 1971. At the time, the character was used almost exclusively by grocers and accountants.
Its use made good sense to an English speaker, shifting definitions from a rate or amount of something to a location.
"It's the only preposition on the keyboard," Tomlinson said from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he works as he has for decades at Raytheon BBN Technologies.
But the connection was lost in other languages, and more visual references to food, animals and body parts sprang up, many based on the at's swirling shape. The symbol is still so unfamiliar that some newspaper and web systems can't print it in this story.
"It's sort of like a Rorschach test. The language would sort of see in the at sign something notable from the culture. What people are familiar with is just so varied, so all these crazy things came out of it," said Karen Steffen Chung, an associate professor of linguistics, English and phonetics at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
The symbol is a strudel in Israel and a "rollmop" - for rolled pickled herring fillet - in Czech. It's "sobachka" for doggie in Russian, was dubbed an "alpha curl" in Norway and sometimes goes by "kanelbulle," a type of traditional cinnamon bun, in Swedish.
Sweden can't seem to make up its mind with the longest list of monikers, including elephant's trunk, elephant's ear, monkey's tail, cat foot, cat's tail and pretzel.
Chung was so intrigued that she reached out to fellow linguists around the world in (what else) e-mail for their insights.
Among the things she discovered was a variety of terms in Serbian. The word "majmun" is one. It means monkey, appears to have been borrowed from Turkish and was used in "majmunski rep" (monkey tail) and "majmunsko-a" (monkey-ish a). The Serbs also invented "ludo-a" (crazy a) for the symbol none of us can escape.
Some countries have "official" terms for the "at." The Swedish Language Board deemed it "snabel-a" (trunk-a), meaning "a'' with an elephant's trunk. Elsewhere, English prevails, including in Finland, South Africa and India.
The spin on "at" in Holland is English, too, but "apeklootje" (little monkey's testicle) was once in play during the sign's rapid rise to stardom. In Sri Lanka, the government agency responsible for promoting information technology on the island nation has no specific word for the symbol in Sinhala, referring to it simply as the "at symbol."
Local pronunciations of the English where other languages dominate include "et" for "a'' in Serbian and "ah-te" (think Ted without the d) in mainland China. Mandarin Chinese hasn't come up with a character for the revolutionary sign.
Japanese, known for borrowing from other languages with a distinctive local pronunciation, usually go for "atto maaku," meaning the English "at," while Greek turned the squiggle into a "little duck" and Hungarian a "little worm."
Arab speakers sometimes translate the English "at" to its equivalent, "fi," though others see it as an "ear" instead when providing their e-mail addresses.
In Taiwan, where Chung lives, the local meaning is "little mouse," a lot livelier than Korean's snail.
The First E-Mail
The preferred word in Spanish is "arroba," which is also a unit of weight, though in Spain "at" can transform into a swirly pastry from Majorca, "ensaimada."
To some in Latin America, the "at" has grown linguistic muscle to stand in as a gender-neutral indication of both male and female (nin(at)s means you're talking about both ninos and ninas.
Slovenian speakers prefer "afna," possibly borrowed from German, where the at is called, among other things, "affenschwanz" (monkey's tail). A similar word in Slovenian means "a woman who overdresses, applies too much makeup etc.," Chung learned.
Tomlinson didn't have the world's many "ats" on his mind when he developed his e-mail protocol using a nearly forgotten key on a Model 33 Teletype machine for use on ARPANET, one of the networks that became the global Internet.
It was Tomlinson who decided to append the "at" sign and the host name to a user's login identity. Not only did it make sense as a preposition, but it was unlikely to be confused for any other part of a user's e-mail address, a term that hadn't yet surfaced.
The succinctness of the at sign, he thinks, played into the imagery in other languages.
"They certainly all tend to be taking something that's more familiar than some dry piece of commercial signage," Tomlinson said. "It's a simple symbol and it's been adopted and sort of been made into a fan icon for anything to do with computers."
The Museum of Modern Art is a fan. It "acquired" the symbol for its collection earlier this year.
At 69, the low-key Tomlinson is still working as a programmer on projects unrelated to e-mail. Have his two grown daughters made full use of bragging rights over dad's e-mail claim to fame?
"They try to be cooler than that," Tomlinson said.
Source: CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/16/tech/main7060838.shtml)
이메일의 @표시, 나라마다 해석도 제각각
전 세계를 하나로 묶는 인터넷의 한 축을 담당하는 이메일 주소에 쓰이는 앳마크(@)는 각 나라에서 어떤 의미로 해석될까.
영어의 "at" 기호인 이 표시는 나라마다 문화적 특성이 반영돼 독특하게 불리고 있다.
스웨덴에서 코끼리코로 불리는 반면 세르비아에서는 원숭이이고, 네덜란드에서는 원숭이의 고환이며, 한국에서는 달팽이(또는 골뱅이), 대만에서는 생쥐이다.
그리스에서는 새끼 오리, 헝가리에서는 작은 벌레, 슬로베니아에서는 원숭이 꼬리로 각각 불린다.
장소를 나타내는 전치사 의미가 있는 영어 의미의 @ 표시가 영어권에서는 본래 의미로 불리지만 말이 다른 외국에서는 원래 의미와 상관없는 엉뚱한 의미로 해석되는 셈이다.
어떻게 이런 일이 벌어졌을까.
타이베이 소재 대만국립대학의 언어학 조교수 청 카렌 스테펜은 "일종의 로르샤흐 검사 같은" 효과가 나타나는 것이라고 지적했다.
로르샤흐 검사는 다양한 의미로 볼 수 있는 잉크 얼룩 같은 어떤 형상을 어떻게 해석하는지 보고 사람의 성격을 판단한다.
마찬가지로 @ 표시도 각 문화권에 따라 익숙한 독특한 취향으로 해석됐다는 분석이다.
@표시가 단순, 간결하다는 점도 문화권에 따른 상상력을 부추기는 요인이 됐다.
이스라엘에서는 @을 스트루델(화덕에 구운 과자의 일종)로 부르며 체코에서는 청어를 말아 만든 피클로 지칭하게 된 것도 이렇듯 그 문화의 작용이라는 말이다.
그래서인지 어떤 나라에서는 @ 표시가 여러 가지로 불리기도 한다.
스웨덴에서는 @가 코끼로코 외에 전통 계피 빵이나 코끼리 귀, 원숭이 꼬리, 고양이 발, 고양이 꼬리, 비스킷의 일종인 프레첼 등 다양한 이름을 갖고 있다.
하지만 영어가 많이 보급된 핀란드나 남아프리카공화국, 인도에서는 영어식으로 불린다.
@표시는 1971년 이메일 시스템을 사용하기 시작해 이메일의 대부 격이 된 레이 콤린슨이 이메일 주소의 분리자로 선택하면서 사용되기 시작했다.