November 30, 2005

clinging monkeys going academic

how do you spell your e-mail address? specifically, how do you refer to the @-sign? in germany, it used to be known as the clinging monkey (Klammeraffe), but that was in the days when only geeks had e-mail addresses, nowadays it's just "at" (we love english words).

the washington post recently had an article on this:

Where It's At -- and Where It's Not [Washington Post, Oct. 2, 2005]
By Nancy Szokan

I'm talking on the phone to an Israeli writer who goes by the nickname Winkie, and I want to send him some information. "What's your e-mail?" I ask.

"Winkie M, Strudel, Yahoo dot com," he says.

"Strudel?" I said. "As in the pastry?" (I'm thinking: Maybe he has a little bakery on the side?) "You mean WinkieM, then s-t-r-u-d- . . . "

"No, no -- it's strudel , that little A sign," he says. "I think you call it 'at'?"

Of course. With a little imagination, I could see that a slice of strudel resembles the @ sign that separates user name from host in e-mail addresses. "Strudel!" I hoot. Winkie, agreeing that it's funny, later sends me a list of words that people in other countries have used for the @ symbol -- most of them a lot more entertaining (if less efficient) than our simple "at."

The list, it turns out, came from an online site,, and was based largely on research done in the early days of e-mail by linguist Karen Steffen Chung of National Taiwan University. Her lengthy collection of @-words, as well as some additions from Post foreign correspondents, shows that while many countries have simply adopted the word "at," or call the symbol something like "circle A" or "curled A," more imaginative descriptions still hold sway in many places.

In Russia, for instance, it seems that the most common word for the @ is sobaka ( dog) or sobachka ( doggie) -- apparently because a computer game popular when e-mail was first introduced involved chasing an @-shaped dog on the screen. (Don't laugh; Pac-Man was shaped like a pie with a missing slice.) So when Natasha gives her e-mail address to someone, it comes out sounding like she calls herself "Natasha, the dog." "Everybody's used to it," says Peter Finn, The Post's Moscow correspondent, "but there are still jokes -- people say 'Natasha, don't be so hard on yourself.' " Ah, those crazy Russians.

Try this: Look at the @. What does it remind you of? Apparently it reminds a lot of people around the world of a monkey with a long and curling tail; thus, their e-mail addresses might include variations of the word for monkey. That's majmunsko in Bulgarian, m alpa in Polish , majmun in Serbian and shenja e majmunit ("the monkey sign") in Albanian. Or they might call it an "ape's tail": aapstert in Afrikaans, apsvans in Swedish , apestaart in Dutch, Affenschwanz among German-speaking Swiss. (Many Germans apparently used to say Klammeraffe , meaning "clinging monkey," or Schweinekringel [ never heard that one ), a pig's tail -- though these days it's usually just "at.") In Croatian, they call the sign "monkey," but they say the word in English. Go figure.

Does the sign make you think of a snail? That's what you might get in Korean ( dalphaengi) or Italian ( chiocciola) or sometimes Hebrew ( shablul, when they're not saying strudel). The French apparently flirted briefly with escargot. "Yes, it looks like a snail," noted one amused Korean. "But isn't it funny and ironic, since 'snail mail' is opposed to e-mail in English?"

Do you see the @ as a curled up cat? That's why it's sometimes kotek or "kitten" in Poland and miuku mauku in Finland, where cats say "miau. "

In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it can be zavinac , or rolled-up pickled herring. In Sweden, when it's not a monkey's tail, it's a kanelbulle, or cinnamon bun. In Hungary, it's kukac, for worm or maggot.

Danes call it snabel, or elephant's trunk. In the tiny parts of France, Spain and Italy where a disappearing language called Occitan is still spoken, users call it alabast , which means "little hook." In Mandarin Chinese, it's xiao lao shu -- "little mouse" -- which must get confusing given the gizmo of the same name.

Now for the news, also known as the depressing part: As noted by Scott Herron, the compiler of the list at, some of these more colorful images appear to be fading, or are already gone. Many of Chung's correspondents note that their local e-mailers increasingly just say "at."

This might just be a result of the cultural hegemony of English. Or maybe, as e-mail has gone from exciting new technology to spam-filled work tool, it has ceased to inspire as much creativity. Instead you get the mundane Japanese atto maaku -- literally, the "at mark" -- and the Mongolian buurunhii dotorh aa -- "A in round circle."

More strudel, please.

what strikes me is that the @-symbol (of all things) has become an accepted way to indicate gender neutrality. the university of wisconsin, for example, offers a chican@ and latin@ studies program, and that's the official spelling.

it reminds me of the german binnenmajuskel or "inner I", the capitalized i that is used to indicate that a female form is chosen to represent both the masculine and the feminine form (this is different from internal capitalization known as CamelCase). in german, agent nouns derived from verbs end on -er when they are masculine and on -erin when they are feminine. a lehrer is a male teacher, and a lehrerin is a female teacher. the masculine form is usually chosen to represent both genders, but feminists have challenged this automatism - why should the masculine form be used to represent both genders?

so, how to deal with it? some people will still only use the masculine form (after all, it has worked for centuries), some will use the masculine and the feminine form, coordinated ("Lehrer und Lehrerin") or separated by a slash ("Lehrer/-in"), for example in job postings (because they have to), some will use only the feminine form (to make a point), and some will use - count me among them - the feminine form but with a capitalized I to indicate that it is a conscious choice they are making ("LehrerIn").

german doesn't have capital letters in the middle of a word, normally. if one writes LehrerIn, what it means is something like "male teacher or female teacher and i really want you to notice that the teacher could be female". the german "inner I" may look odd, but at least it is a letter and everybody knows how to pronounce it. the clinging monkey, however, is not a letter. it represents a word, very much like numbers represent words as chunks ( there's nothing in the symbol 4 that indicates how it is to be pronounced). the @-sign is associated with the pronunciation of the word at, and it is not clear to me at all why one would pronounce something that is spelled chican@ as "chicano slash chicana", which, apparently, is the correct way to read this aloud.

November 29, 2005

puggles and other mixed ideas

puggles - would that be pets that can't do magic? dogs that poke ("puggle - to clear out or stir up by poking", webster's unabridged dictionary) or cousins of schnoodles, labradoodles and cockapoos (the latter has actually made into webster's - still, i wonder why they are not called coodles)? in a letter to the new york times someone recounts his first puggle experience:

November 28, 2005,Metropolitan Diary [The New York Times]

Dear Diary

I'm at the Carl Schurz dog run with my pug. A young, very well-to-do looking woman walks by me with her dog, a breed that is unfamiliar to me. As she pulls out treats and special water, I ask her what type of dog it is. She gives me what seems like a patronizing look and says, "A puggle."

"A what?"

"A puggle. It's a cross between a pug and a beagle."

She then looks at my dog with what seems like disdain and says: "I used to have a pug, but they're just such awful dogs to maintain. That's why I switched."

Feeling a bit like we're discussing trade-ins on automobiles, I resume watching the dogs frolic.

Just then, an elderly woman walks by the dog run and stops. She looks at the puggle, pauses, and asks the first woman what kind of dog it is. The woman sighs, exasperated by this point, and says sharply: "A puggle. A cross between a pug and a beagle." The elderly woman thinks for a bit, then says, "Or, as we called them in my day, mutts."

She leaves, and only one of us isn't smiling.

David Toussaint
so, while some people like their dog to be a poodle and something, other people want their poodles to be something else. here's another story of a dog whose owner wishes that the dog be taken for something else, in this case, hold your breath, a great panda:
A dog in Japan with a new dye job pushes the 'mixed-breed' trend in the canine world to the limit. The poodle-Maltese cross was named "Columbo" by its owner features a black-and-white dye job fashioned after a panda bear. Columbo, who is naturally white, was dyed using a special hair dye for dogs that lasts about a month.The Panda Dog could join a long list of suddenly trendy "designer dogs," pooches bred from different breeds that can fetch $1,000 a piece.

if you're not that much into poodles, why get one in the first place? and if you prefer a mutt with a dignified breed name, forget all the -doodles, get a bassador, like brandy.

November 25, 2005

did anyone say snow?

after being attacked by dozens of lands' end catalogs showing pictures of cute dogs wearing coats, i gave in an bought a "pet squall jacket" for brandy. they are coordinated with jackets for humans, but we don't go there...yet.

November 22, 2005

pugs and puns

is this a t-shirt for people who like pugs or who hate pugs? (well, i suppose you'd have to dislike pugs quite passionately to shell out $20 for a t-shirt that documents your feelings).

``A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!'' cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

``Bah!'' said Scrooge, ``Humbug!''

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge's, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

``Christmas a humbug, uncle!'' said Scrooge's nephew. ``You don't mean that, I am sure.''

``I do,'' said Scrooge. ``Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? what reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough.''

``Come, then,'' returned the nephew gaily. ``What right have you to be dismal? what reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough.''

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ``Bah!'' again; and followed it up with ``Humbug.''

although most people probably associate humbug with ebenezer scrooge from dickens's a christmas carol [1843] , the word has actually been around in the english language for a little longer. the OED lists its first use in writing (meaning "A hoax; a jesting or befooling trick; an imposition", now obsolete) for 1751. interestingly, it's capitalized in many early examples, as if it were a name, but according to the OED, its origin is unclear:
Many guesses at the possible derivation of humbug have been made; but as with other and more recent words of similar introduction, the facts as to its origin appear to have been lost, even before the word became common enough to excite attention. Cf. the following:
1751 (Jan.) Student II. 41 There is a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion, which though it has not even the ‘penumbra’ of a meaning, yet makes up the sum total of the wit, sense and judgement of the aforesaid people of taste and fashion!..I will venture to affirm that this Humbug is neither an English word, nor a derivative from any other language. It is indeed a blackguard sound, made use of by most people of distinction! It is a fine, make-weight in conversation, and some great men deceive themselves so egregiously as to think they mean something by it!
scrooge is of course also the name of donald duck's uncle. in german, sadly, he's simply known as "onkel dagobert".

November 20, 2005

the dogs on main street howl

... cause they understand that there is finally a positive connection between bruce springsteen and dogs: sirius satellite radio has launched a channel called "e street radio", which is "America's only 24/7 radio station devoted to the music and archives of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street BAnd." forget those silly dog channels, this is the real thing.

sirius's logo makes sense to anybody who knows a little about astronomy or who has read this post (note the dog's star-shaped eye).

for those of us who don't subscribe to satellite radio, well, we can do what we always have done, make sure that there's a copy of the "world's best driving album" in the car and then celebrate "the thrill of singing with the Boss", as captured beautifully by helene cooper in a recent "appreciation" on the new york times editorial page (nov. 18):

Born to Run

On a steaming August afternoon in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, two friends and I busted out of class - oops, work - early, and headed for Maryland's Eastern Shore for blue crabs and cold beer. We were baking as we sat in traffic on the black leather seats of my convertible. Finally, we got to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and paid the toll, and Neil slipped a disc into my CD player. The first familiar piano chords sounded: "The screen door slams./Mary's dress waves."

If you stick to 61 miles per hour, it takes exactly 4 minutes 49 seconds to drive over the Bay Bridge, the same time it takes Bruce Springsteen to get through "Thunder Road," the opening song on the world's best driving album, "Born To Run." Bruce re-released "Born to Run" this week, 30 years after it first came out. Over the years, I've driven thousands of miles to Bruce, but none so sweet as on that day we went over the Bay Bridge to "Thunder Road."

Halfway across the bridge, the temperature dropped 10 degrees, to 88, and that's when Bruce got his guitar and learned how to make it talk. It was the perfect pause in the middle of an anthem, a chance to look out at the sailboats dotting the bay, at all the other Washington escapees cruising in search of tomorrow. "My car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk/from your front porch to my front seat./The door's open but the ride it ain't free."

Shailagh and I had our arms up in the air - maybe celebrating just the thrill of singing with the Boss as we barreled across the last part of the bridge. Bruce said, "I'm pulling out of here to win," and we played imaginary pianos with him on that last trill that leads into Clarence Clemons's saxophone. We were on the Eastern Shore proper and in a completely different place, psychologically, than when we drove past that tollbooth.

I got the 30th-anniversary box set on Tuesday, the day it came out, and spent the next three hours watching the two included DVD's on a laptop at work (research, of course). But my favorite part - listening to my beloved "Born to Run" CD all over again - I couldn't do in the office. "Everybody on 'Born to Run' is out, or trying to get out," Bruce says on the DVD. "That's the underpinning." No kidding. So I slid my new CD into my portable player and headed out, walking through downtown Manhattan. But I was also in my car once more, cruising over the Bay Bridge.

dogs on film

the new york times has a short squib about a dog film festival:

"It's 'Sex and the City' meets 'Best in Show' meets 'Lassie,' " Gayle Kirschenbaum said, explaining the star vehicle she had created for Chelsea, her Shih Tzu. Shot in part with a specially rigged "doggie cam," the film is called "A Dog's Life: A Dogamentary," and it is one of 14 films featured in the International Dog Film Festival.

That's not films by dogs. It's films starring dogs.
well, thanks for clarifying that.

November 18, 2005

everything sells better with a dog

a selection of ties at j. crew's in chicago. nice. but what do you look at? right, the dog!

a pet store, also in chicago. i wouldn't have looked twice, had there not been that doggie in the window:

picture frames at crate and barrel also seem to sell better with a canine touch:

November 15, 2005

hearts heart dogs

the associated press reports a study that showed that dogs have a benefical effect on heart failure patients (at least for those patients who said that they like dogs). too bad that brandy's anxiety would go up quite dramatically if she had to go and visit patients in a hospital.
Dogs Lower Anxiety Among Heart Patients

By JAMIE STENGLE Associated Press Writer

November 15,2005 | DALLAS -- It turns out dogs are more than man's best friend. They're pretty good at making the sick feel better, too, in ways that can be measured.

A small study showed that visits from therapeutic dogs lowered anxiety, stress and heart and lung pressure among heart failure patients.

"I'm not surprised at all that something that makes people feel good also makes them feel less anxious, has measurable physiological effects," said Dr. Marc Gillinov, a cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study.

"You can see it on their face, first you see a smile and then you see the worries of the world roll off their shoulders," said Kathie Cole, a nurse at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center who led the study presented Tuesday at an American Heart Association meeting.

Take Charles Denson, for example. His face brightened as a speckled Australian Shepherd named Bart cuddled next to him as he rested in his hospital bed in a cardiac care unit.

"You've got a pretty coat," the 51-year-old said, while petting Bart's soft fur.

Cole and her colleagues studied 76 heart failure patients -- average age 57 -- who got either a visit from a volunteer, a volunteer plus a dog, or no visit.

The scientists meticulously measured patients' physiological responses before, during and after the visits.

Anxiety as measured by a standard rating scale dropped 24 percent for those visited by the dog and volunteer team, but only by 10 percent for those visited by just a volunteer. The scores for the group with no visit remained the same.

Levels of epinephrine, a hormone the body makes when under stress, dropped about 17 percent in patients visited by a person and a dog, and 2 percent in those visited just by a person. But levels rose about 7 percent in the unvisited group.

Heart pressure dropped 10 percent after the visit by the volunteer and dog. It increased 3 percent for those visited by a volunteer and 5 percent for those who got no visit. Lung pressure declined 5 percent for those visited by a dog and a volunteer. It rose in the other two groups.

Gillinov said the study was especially impressive because of the hard data it provided as opposed to observations.

Cole said that she hopes the study, funded by the Pet Care Trust Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes the value of animals in society, helps show that pet therapy is a credible addition to patient care, not just a nicety.

"It makes the hospital seem less like a hospital and it lowers people's blood pressure," said Linda Marler, education coordinator for Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation and animal assisted therapy coordinator for Baylor Healthcare System. Her program has grown from its beginnings in 1985 with one dog to 84. [...]

too bad that brandy's anxiety rate would go up quite dramatically, if i tried to take her to visit strange people in a hospital.

November 10, 2005

the brightest dog of all

i had to observe an esl (english as a second language) class today. students were speculating about the meaning of the expression dog days. one student guessed that it might mean something like "happy days", which would make perfect sense...

when the true meaning was explained ("the hottest days of the year"), the students wondered where it came from. since my role was only to observe the class, i couldn't tell them. the expression has to do with the star sirius, and, according to the OED, it has been in use in english since the 14th century.
The days about the time of the heliacal rising of the Dog-star; noted from ancient times as the hottest and most unwholesome period of the year [OED]
sirius is a very bright star, the chief of the constellation canis major ("great dog").

[in the harry potter series, sirius black is the name of harry's godfather, an animagus who can transform himself into a big black dog.]

November 05, 2005

checking mails

o.k., i admit, i also use the expression "checking mails" in a canine context, but at least i don't refer to them as pee mails.

[brandy in front of a mail hub - courtesy of ihp]

November 03, 2005

the cold season - are we there yet?

the temperature was up in the sixties today. and on the capitol lawn, the sprinklers were in use. at the same time, city workers put up christmas lights downtown, and the big fountain on campus has been sealed with its winter cover. so, are we there yet?

if i compare this picture with that, taken a month ago, it seems that we're almost there, despite the sprinkler and the sun.

November 02, 2005

care package

yeah! a care package from germany! 10 kilograms of chocolate, gummi bears, and christmas presents.
and there may also have been some german dog treats.

["care" in care package is an acronym, derived from CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) . the original care package was a charity food parcel sent to needy europeans after world war II. according to this source, the first 20,000 CARE packages reached europe on may 11, 1946. the standard care package contained one pound of beef in broth, one pound of steak and kidneys, 8 ounces of liver loaf, 8 ounces of corned beef, 12 ounces of luncheon loaf, 8 ounces of bacon, one pound of lard, one pound of fruit preserves, one pound of honey, one pound of raisins, one pound of chocolate, 2 pounds of sugar, 8 ounces of egg powder, 2 pounds of whole-milk powder, 2 pounds of coffee.]

pet podcast

what's your dog's favorite song? he doesn't listen to music all that much? well, that may change, according to a dj on, portrayed in today's new york times:
Jumpy Enough to Chew a Chair? Try DogCatRadio

"Remember, be kind to your mailman," said Jane Harris, a disc jockey. Then she softened her voice until it was a little insinuating: "He only wants to deliver the mail."

It is a message that many of her listeners need to hear. Ms. Harris is a D.J. on, a new Internet radio station for pets. Now dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots can keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay while their owners are out. It is radio just for them, live 17 hours a day, 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time, and podcast for the rest of the 24 hours.

Those who listen to DogCatRadio will find that there is generally an animal motif to the playlist, like "Hound Dog": "You ain't nothin' but a hound dogcryin' all the time."

This Elvis song is a frequent request from listeners (presumably the owners), as are the Baha Men, singing: "Who let the dogs out (woof, woof, woof, woof)."

And Dionne Warwick is also popular, especially her soothing song "That's What Friends Are For": "Keep smiling, keep shining,/Knowing you can always count on me."

Since many pets are apparently bilingual, DogCatRadio also has a "Spanish Hour," 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time daily, with Hispanic commentary and music, like Luis Miguel's "No Sé Tú": was started last June by Adrian Martinez, who is also president of Marusa records, an independent record label in Los Angeles. He runs the station out of a customized RV parked in his office lot in the Eagle Rock section of Los Angeles. [...]

The first week that DogCatRadio was broadcast, the local CBS television station showed a feature about it. As a result, so many people tuned in, 130,000 in one day, that the server crashed, Mr. Martinez said. "We had to get a bigger server to accommodate more listeners." Now, he said, "We average close to 8,000 hits a week. We have a meter that tracks it."

"People are just e-mailing us," calling from all over the world, Mr. Martinez said. "I love what you are doing, but please don't forget our equine friends," an e-mail message from Australia said. [...]

Meanwhile, the broadcast has received some notice. Dr. Larry Family, who has a talk show program, the Pet Vet, on WROW-AM in Albany, recommends DogCatRadio to his patients' owners. "It's of interest to those people whose pets have certain phobias or anxiety issues," he said in a telephone interview from the outskirts of Schenectady, where he has his practice.

"I have recommended it to those whose dogs are having certain problems behaviorwise in the home environment," he said.

"It might be helpful with dogs with separation anxiety issues," Dr. Family went on. "Dogs, especially, are interested in watching TV with their owners and listening to music."

Mr. Martinez said that at the moment, the station has no advertising and is making no money. But, he said, "I'm not in it for the money." He added, "Eventually, I'm sure, people will advertise."

That is not such a leap, since it is estimated that American pet owners will spend $35.9 billion this year on everything from electric toothbrushes for dogs to bird pedicures to self-flushing litter boxes for cats, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. [...]

personally, "to keep the anxiety, the loneliness, the restlessness at bay" i recommend playing this - and brandy prefers kongs.

November 01, 2005

halloween, personalized

where are all the kids? well, i'm glad i only bought candy that i like to eat myself.

creative design: the middle pumpkin has my neighbor's puppy's name carved into it (pictures courtesy of ihp)