ENGLISCH/944: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (208) - Spoken internet (SB)

Hello Mrs Gobbledygook,

As a journalist I often deal with English-speaking people whom I contact by telephone or email. Recently I was asked for my email address on the phone. I had to pass at first because I didn't know how to pronounce "@". Okay, I was finally able to make myself understood, but I left an extremely unprofessional impression on the person I was talking to. Do other people also have problems with that? How could I have handled this situation better?

Yumi Choi (Incheon, Korea)


Dear Ms Choi,

Every now and then you stumble across something you think you know, something that seems quite simple, and then you realise that it's not as simple as you thought. You will actually be surprised at how many people who have even obtained an English language certificate have problems reading their own email address, Internet accounts or web addresses. I am therefore very grateful that you have raised this issue. Because in this high-speed, digitally controlled world that happens to be ours, we should really be able to pronounce and exchange email addresses and websites with some confidence.

So let's get started by having a look at the nice long email address of Schattenblick: "" as an example of how to pronounce the symbol "@" and all the rest. We need to look at the difference between telling and spelling. Usually you're telling someone most of the email address like this:

Remember never to say "point" or "stop".
It's "dot". And the weird looking @ symbol is agreeably called "at".

Another common way you can spell an email address is to use the name of the symbol. However, there are quite a few different names for it; people call it "Arroba" or "commercial at"; some also call it the "at-sign" and sometimes it is called the "at-symbol". Instead of the "minus-sign" it is equally common to say "dash".

So, instead of telling someone your email address you could spell it like this:
m-a dash v-e-r-l-a-g dot r-e-d-a-k-tdot s-c-h-a-t-t-e-n-b-l-i-c-k arroba g-m-x dot d-e.

But generally we use full words. Most people know the Top Level Domains (TLDs) such as ".com", ".net", ".org", etc. by now. These are also pronounced like normal words, e.g. dot com, dot net, dot org, dot etc.

I've also noticed that when it comes to the most national TLDs like ".de", ".uk", ".au", ".bg", ".tl", and TLDs like "gmx","wwf" or other, its best to spell them out. I guess that's because it's a little difficult to get "bd" or "tp" across your lips in one word. If you don't believe me, then, come on - just try it!

If you ask someone for an email address, you should be aware that this is very personal information, which perhaps not everyone would like to share publicly. An appropriately polite way to ask would be:

"Could you tell me your email address, please?"
"Could I get your email address, please?"
or "Would you mind telling me your email address?"

The telling and spelling of web addresses is very similar to what we have just worked out. That's why I take the chance to briefly address this topic here, even if you didn't ask for it directly. As an example I stick to the Schattenblick web address:

As you might have noticed, we can ignore most of the full link. You don't even have to worry about the "www."-part. So, I could just say:
Our homepage is "schattenblick-dot-d-e".

But sometimes it may be necessary to provide the entire weblink or URL, with all the "https://"-bits and "www"-pieces. So, how do we do that?

Every URL, which is - by the way - short for "Uniform Resource Locator", starts with the "https://". In this case you spell the letters one by one followed by the name of the signs: "h-t-t-p-s-colon-forward slash-forward slash-...".

This is followed by the "www."-piece. When we do that, we actually emphasize every letter individually - "double-u, double-u, double-u", - which literally takes quite a while and is probably the main reason why we don't bother to say it after all. Imagine that: The whole nine syllable tongue twister "double-u, double-u, double-u" is supposed to be the short form "www" which stands for the three-syllable expression: "World Wide Web". Pardon me, but how bloody complicated is that?

Now there are many more symbols like these that can appear in a URL address and you will notice that I have listed quite a few of them and their correct translation for you below. So if you come across one of these basic signs, you just have to name it:

comma = ,
apostrophe = '
speech mark or inverted commas or quotation mark = "
ampersand = &
plus sign = +
minus sign or dash = -
arrow = →
copyright sign = ©
question mark = ?
number symbol or hash symbol or hash sign = #
brackets = ()
open bracket = (
close bracket or closed bracket = )
underscore = _
colon = :
semicolon = ;
forward slash = /
backslash = \

If you need more signs or translations, just try to spell out the following URL into your Google's voice recognition app:
"h-t-t-p-s-colon-forward slash-forward slash-double-u,double-u,double-u-dot-toptal-dot-com-forward slash-designers-forward slash-h-t-m-l-arrows-forward slash-symbols-forward slash"
or write: "https://www.designers/htmlarrows/symbols/". So, thanks again for your question and I hope that helps!

Miranda Gobbledygook

5. Oktober 2018

Zur Tagesausgabe / Zum Seitenanfang