@ The Generation Gap
By stern on Apr 11, 2008
One of the girls spelled out her parents' email login then directed me to type a shtruedel. I gave her the look normally reserved for my attempts at this modernized ancient langauge (reality check here: last time I was in Israel I had to ask for toilet paper, and could neither remember the word nor describe it, until I forced a Yiddish-Hebrew couplet and asked, essentially, for "butt serviettes". It worked, but you should have seen the look). Shtruedel is what my Yiddish-speaking grandparents ate on Sunday afternoons after the obligatory trip to the bakery. It's not on my keyboard.
Until the air-drawing, repetition and thinking in metaphors clicked: shtruedel is the @ sign. Looks like a strudel in cross-section. I had to double-check Wikipedia on this, just to be sure I wasn't injected food-related context where none was warranted. Sure enough, the proper Hebrew word for "commerical at" is krukit, which translates to...
I believe this is another one of those Internet generation gap social vignettes, but not one born from students who have never seen a hand-written receipt with a quantity, a "commercial at" sign followed by a price. Nor is it a derivative of pronouncing email addresses in a post-bang addressing Internet. I really think that the current crop of teenagers don't get the notion that you are "at" your email. Your address is an identifier and a place name; it's not necessary for you to be at that named place. When first reading email on the Princeton University VAXen in the mid-80s, you had to be physically in the same building, usually on the other end of a nicely soldered RS-232 cable. The @ was less commercial and more existential: You were at that machine, not at a service, not at the other end of a scalable load-balancing and DDoS defeating L7 switch, but really at a compute node. Today, whether it's shtrudel, snail, round a, fancy a, or monkey, it's merely a token that helps us break a network location into pronouncable parts. Why not put a cooloquial pronunciation on it? Especially if it's food-related, as it improves the probability that I know the word.