The epistolary genre is back in fashion today, although it was already preparing to disappear completely. The phone won with a clear advantage – “sometimes beautiful, often useless”, as written by Constantine Simonov, letters remained the thing of the conservative generation. The stamps moved away to philatelists, the envelopes moved away to deltiologists, and one’ written word, if it wasn’t fiction or a report, practically disappeared as an idea. Written speech was saved in America: by that time, they invented electronic mail, or, in short, an e-mail.
It is believed that the very first letter was sent by another computer engineer Ray Tomlinson on October 2, 1971. What were the contents? Nothing special: a bunch of the random letters. The engineer did not realize the greatness of the moment, otherwise he would have reprinted a piece of Lincoln's Gettysburg Speech or some other text that was culturally crucial to American people.
And the computer engineer invented the address himself, or rather all of the addresses that followed. The idea lay on the surface of the envelope: to whom the letter was and where it was to be sent. And so that “who” and “where” are not confused, Tomlinson separated them with an @ – as it surely could not be found in anyone’s name.
Tomlinson's had a magic touch. @ has gone through a real renaissance and scattered around the world in myriads of letters. Not everywhere they call it, as they do in Russia, a “dog", offending the owner of the address in the process – how does “Pushkin dog mail dot ru" sound verbally? Psychologists would be just right to write theses on the matter, studying the mentality of different nations. What a well of associations and metaphors! We have a dog, China has a mouse,
Bulgaria – a monkey, Germany and Holland – a monkey tail. The snail is seen by Italians and Koreans, as well as those who are passionate about Esperanto. Hungarians imagine a worm, Norwegians – a pig’s tail, the Danes – the trunk of an elephant, and the Turks – its ear. The part of the planet is apparently hungry: it resembles a strudel to the Israelis, and the Czechs and Slovaks, on the contrary, rollmops. People also make puns with the word e-mail itself: rarely will any Russian avoid the temptation to call it soap (rus. “mylo” = mail) or “Emelya,” a Russian fairy tale character.