used by grocers and accountants throughout the English-speaking world to indicate a rate, or cost per unit, as in "10 gal @ $3.95/gal" [ten gallons at three dollarsand ninety-five cents per gallon] has become the de facto delimiter in e-mail addresses, separating the user's name from the domain name.
Although the change from at meaning "for agiven amount per" to at meaning "in a specified (electronic) location" comes fairly naturally to English speakers, it does not for native speakers of other languages, for whom neither "at"nor @ meant anything until e-mail came around.
Indeed, a fair number of internet users live in countries that don't use the same alphabet English does (Japan, China, former republics ofthe Soviet Union including Russia, and Arabic-speaking countries, to name some major ones), and where the keyboards did not conveniently include the @ character until after it'swidespread use on the internet made it a necessity.
As a result, while in some languages @ is simply called "at," in others, a wide variety of interesting nicknames have been developed forthis little symbol. Most are based on the shape of the character, others are more abstract. Some are original and unique, others are derived from other languages. Some have ancientantecedents, others are still "works in progress." (Internet users in Sri Lanka are even now trying to decide what to call @). In some countries, a variety of ideosyncratic names have appearedsimultaneously, while in others, government beauracracies are charged with selecting an "official" term.
Metaphors range from animals (snail, worm, little dog, horse) to body parts(elephant's trunk, monkey's tail, cat's foot, pig's ear) to food (rollmops herring, strudel, cinnamon roll, pretzel). This article includes a sampling of the many names of @, world-wide.