Recently, I chanced upon a page in Wikipedia entitled “At sign”. It contains a long list of the names which @ has in various languages. It is quite amazing that one sign can have been interpreted in so many different ways. Here is a selection (some of the names listed are not reported as the most common ones):
In Finnish it is a cat’s tail, kissanhäntä, or a miaow-miaow, miukumauku.
Russians prefer calling it a dog, собака (sobaka).
In Kyrgyz it’s a doggy, собачка (sobachka).
In Armenian a puppy, shnik.
One of various names for it in Ukrainian is little dog, песик (pesyk).
And in Kazakh it is sometimes a dog’s head, ит басы.
In Greek it is a duckling, παπάκι (papaki),
Another name for it in Ukrainian it is an ear, вухо (vukho).
In Kazakh the official name (dog’s head is unofficial) is the beautiful айқұлақ moon’s ear.
In Denmark, Sweden and sometimes in Norway it is snabel-A (elephant trunk A). In Faroese the same but written snápil-a.
Various languages interpret @ as a piece of food.
Pastry roll баница (banitsa) in Bulgarian; ensaimada in Catalan; pickled fish or roll mops, zavináč, in Czech or Slovak,; strudel cake, שטרודל (shtrudel) in Hebrew, cinnamon roll, kanelbulle, in Swedish.
And there is also Narutomaki (鳴門巻き/なると巻き) or naruto (ナルト/なると) in Japanese. (I quote the Wikipedia entry for Narutomaki:
“a type of kamaboko, or cured fish surimi produced in Japan. Each slice of naruto has a pink or red spiral pattern, which resembles the Naruto whirlpools in the Naruto Strait between Awaji Island and Shikoku in Japan. It is also used as a slang term for the at sign (“@”)
(So in this case, @ is named after something it resembles and this in turn is named after something else it resembles.)
Monkeys are very popular:
little monkey, маймунка (maimunka) in Bulgarian and мајмунче (my-moon-cheh in Macedonian;
monkey, мајмун (majmun), or little monkey, мајмунче (majmunče), in Serbian;
monkey, afna, in Slovenian;
monkey, маймылча, in Kyrgyz;
spider monkey, Klammeraffe, in German.
Little monkey tail, apenstaartje in Dutch;
and monkey tail in Afrikaans (aapstert) , in German (Affenschwanz) and in Romanian (coadă de maimuţă).
Monkey A, маймунско а (maymunsko a), in Bulgarian.
One of the names in Taiwan is little mouse, 小老鼠 (xiǎo lǎoshǔ)
In Korean, there is golbaeng-i (골뱅이, bai top shell or whelk.
Snail is also a popular name, сьлімак (ślimak), in Belarussian, a keong in Indonesian, chiocciola in Italian, ravlyk in Ukrainian and malwen or malwoden in Welsh.
In Hungarian, it is worm, kukac, and in Ukrainian little slug слимачок (slymachok).
Finally there are a number of languages which have descriptors of the letter A.
Wrapped a, bildua, in Basque; curly alpha, krøllalfa, in Norwegian or alpha curl, alfakrull, in Swedish; bent A, a còng, or hooked a, a móc, in Vietnamese and the charming crazy A, ludo A (Bosnian) and лудо А (same word, but in Cyrillic) in Serbian.
And in English? We seem to be stuck with the prosaic at. In general, I think that we should strive to make things and language more interesting and imaginative. Instead of using “at”, I would much prefer to give the e-mail address of this website as something like “sidewaysstation whirlpool gmail.com”.
Perhaps then we could come up with an alternative to at.
(A falling down) Staircase (screaming)?
Vertigo? or Vertig-A?
Maybe you have the definitive answer.
Less interesting, perhaps, but used extensively in Québec: un “a” commercial.