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How Hard is your Email to Say? (2020) (dillonshook.com)
39 points by luu on June 11, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

E-mail Addresses It Would Be Really Annoying to Give Out Over the Phone: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/e-mail-addresses-it-woul...

I’ve actually struck up a number of interesting conversations with my wildcard email pattern where I give e.g. a retailer something like “walmart@<my-domain.com>”. Lots of people are confused at first but generally end up getting it and thinking it’s a good idea.

I actually went to an orthodontist once and when filling out the form online the day before I use the Dr’s last name tor the local part. The next day when I went in for the appointment two different people separately made a point to ask me about it and how they could do something similar. It was far more interesting than the discussions about my damn jaw alignment (:

I've had similar conversations, but they are eclipsed by those revolving around people asking me if I work for the company in question. (I once said yes, to see what would happen, and understood how easy it would be to swindle people who don't understand email.)

I also spent 10 minutes trying to convince a car hire company that the email was mine and didn't belong to a third party car hire intermediary.

Haha yeah I do expect I’ll eventually run into confusion. For the most part I’m rarely giving anyone an email address in person or over the phone anyway.

I live on a street with a long, somewhat weird name that sounds like one word if you say it too fast but is actually three words. It’s much more of annoyance than my email addresses hah.

I used to do this (now I use less guessable keys) and recall having many similar conversations. Occasionally I would run into someone who refused to believe the address was "real" but then when I gave them some other arbitrary string at the same domain they suddenly accepted it. I've also encountered websites which refused to let me sign up with their company's name anywhere in the email string and one particularly hilarious example where the site accidentally gave me access to things I wasn't supposed to have access to just because I'd used site.com@mydomain.com to sign up.

Mine is “first name at last name dot dk, only last name is spelled with an ‘O’ instead of an ‘Ø’” ...

It’s quite common when giving my email over the phone that my full name has already been established so I really wished the “Ø”-version would work (I also own that domain) but most (many? Some? Too many) email clients refuse to send emails to servers that contains special characters.

I can receive emails at the ø-domain, but not send to it using Fastmail. They recommend I use puny codes but that’s way too difficult to communicate.

Maybe you should set http://xn--lsgaard-p1a.dk/ to redirect to http://olsgaard.dk/

Why do most Danes use Ø or Æ in their names, but not Å?

(The chance of HN recognizing the first URL as a URL? 1%? ... Oh, it converted ølsgaard.dk to Punycode.)

> Why do most Danes use Ø or Æ in their names, but not Å?

I think because Å was added later than Ø or Æ (introduced in 1948 vs 1100 for the other two). People are hesitant to change the spelling of their names, so the old form "Aa" is still common in names like Aamand and Aagesen.

I thought I had set it up to redirect http ... for email it actually does redirect.

Same here, first at last dot country. But I'm unlucky to have a 15 character last name. Luckily in many cases whoever I'm telling my email to has my last name somewhere on their screen :-) if not things typically go wrong...

Similar for me: "first name @ first name . fi".

I used to use steve.org.uk, but since moving steve.fi. The Finnish suffix is much easier to explain than the ".org.uk".

Haha, when I was younger, I had wolfr@m-hempel.de (my name is Wolfram Hempel). I felt pretty clever, but it turns out "It's wolfram minus hempel dot d e with the a in Wolfram as at" confused the hell out of people :-)

I did use dom@in.tld few years ago.

I think that the domain name the easiest to say is abc.xyz which is owned by Google: https://abc.xyz/

@abc.xyz is arguably even easier to communicate than @gmail.com or @yahoo.com because it's possible some people may have never heard of such and such popular mail host, but at least they know the alphabet :-)

Strongly disagree. I think most ordinary people expect roughly every email address to end with .com. I think some people might be ok with eg .co.<country-code> (in that country) or .org, but I would expect you to risk them writing down .com anyway. If you give an address like abc.xyz, you risk people not believing that it’s a real address and doing weird things or random problems with spam filters not liking the tld.

True. People have emailed me at myemail.mydomain@gmail.com instead of myemail@mydomain.com even when given in writing. I found it that they cc'ed the correct one just in case.

I would guess a lot of people would just (silently) add the .com when you told them me@abc.xyz resulting in me@abc.xyz.com

Hm that depends on the country though. The local TLD (.us, .fr, .hr, …) would be rather common I’d say.

Apart from that, it’s mostly what people browse to, yes. So .com, .net, .org.

Country code domains are common in many countries outside the USA.

If it's clear I'm not local, something like "yahoo.ca" or "mail.ru" is not confusing, except perhaps for Colombians (.co). A local with an address in the "wrong" country can be confusing if it's obscure.

Within a country, using a less-common second level domain (e.g. .org.uk) for a personal domain can be confusing. I've had people say "so that's example.org.uk.com then?" or "what was that, symbiote-example.org.uk@gmail?"

You'd be amazed at how many people get confused about "new" TLDs (not .com, .net, .org, .edu, or .gov). I have an email account that's @mylastname.io, and I had to buy mylastnameio.com because I got tired of not getting emails because the "silent failure" where a rep thought they entered my email right but totally didn't.

I diagree. The c / z in American pronunciation can cause confusion in verbal communication here. "at ey bee [see] dot ex why [see]"

My domain with the associated email is https://ertdfgcvb.xyz (and .ch, .com): I felt so clever and proud when I came up with it until I had to spell it on the phone. At least it’s easy to type…

Open your QWERTY keyboard on phone/tablet or look down at your keyboard to see the cleverness

Nice, it even works with QWERTZ or AZERTY!

Very clever website, but I suspect it's a bit less so if you're using a screen reader.

I was part of a company years back called "the psyche deli", which a partner came up with and we all thought terribly clever, especially given what it did.

That is until we had to explain email addresses over the phone.

My forename is already a bit astandard, and so a problem in itself - and then trying to 'easily' explain the business as "the psychedelic, but drop the c" didn't really help with the numerous clients who didn't know how to spell 'psychedelic'.

All told, a bit awkward. Fun times though.

The best email is:

„You just wrote down my first and last name, right? Well, my email is firstname@lastname.com!“

If only. The amount of times people have tried to put mine down as $fistname.$lastname.$tld@gmail.com is genuinely sad. I have gotten used to speaking very slowly and clearly to make sure that doesn't happen, yet still, almost every time: > $firstname [pause] AT $lastname [pause] DOT $tld >> It says the email isn't valid > ok, what email did you put in? >> $firstname@$lastname.$tld@gmail.com > did I ever say gmail.com >> no, but.. > exactly, so let's try this again (goto 0)

Admittedly, I don't have the .com for my last name because.. you guessed it - scalpers, but at least it's a ccTLD. A friend of mine has his email on .ninja and he had to register a couple gmail addresses for the most common mistakes people made because some straight up wouldn't believe him it was an actual address and insisted they were helping him because he didn't know what he was doing and sent things to gmail.

The "let me fix your email for you" thing is pretty annoying. I don't get it a lot, but I have a catch-all email on one of my domains and I often register new accounts as service@domain.tld to keep track of spam. I've gotten people contacting me through other measures (when they require a phone number, for example) because they thought I put my email in wrong.

I have a scheme to give addresses per service, but I do this with gmail on my domain. It goes like $ACCOUNT+$RANDOMLETTERS@$DOMAIN.$TLD, of course there are notable number of services that do not accept addresses with "+". I prefer to not dictate e-mails to anyone, but when I say first it's a complicated address, people change mindset and really treat it like a phone number.

It has never happened to me in Poland. But maybe your conversation should go like this:

"My e-mail is _not_ at gmail.com. It is: $firstname@$lastname.$tld. Instead of gmail dot com it is $lastname dot $tld."

It would be tiring and a bit offensive to knowledgeable people, but maybe better then trying to debug the situation.

Some country second-level domains cause stupid warnings on badly implemented web forms. I wonder if customer support people have the same crap on the systems they use, leading them to "fix" the address.

It's not unusual for me to type in my email address, and see a validation warning appear below "did you mean xxxx@xxxx.co.uk?"

.co.uk is probably the most common, but who would mistype .net.uk, .plc.uk or similar as one of the valid second-level domains?

Maybe just get `$firstname@$lastname.$tld@gmail.com` and let them write down whatever.

For me, its, my last @ my first.net. Then they ask, but is it gmail.com? No there is no gmail.com in it. Do its last first at yahoo? No Sir, its last @ first .net. Hugh? What type of mail this is?

I made my domain.tld @ gmail.com, & yes, I get occasionally emails there meant for last @ domain.tld

I have "first@la.st". It sometimes trips people up, because the "st" part is for a country very far away.

Similar for me. My first and last name are 12 characters each though (Greek), so the step of writing those down correctly is the problem.

This is my problem. My email address only scores 2 (it's $firstname@$surname.$2ld.net), but for some reason everyone has problems spelling my surname even when spelt out to them.

And just to make sure it works if misinterpreted, I have both $firstname@$lastname.pl and firstname@lastname.pl :)

I have the same, but with a .dev TLD

And there's a HTML page for it:


I really wanted my name for an email address. Finally got it with gmail. That’s been a total hassle in recent years since I get many mails for other people, or mistakes, etc. Or gmail ignores the “.” and that amplifies mistakes people make.

Now I want a GUID for people I can copy and paste to. The public one can have anti-spam dialled up to 11.

I got a pretty short gmail address way back when it was invitation only. It's a bit of some of my names but I have a long name, so it's not the whole thing. According to this it would score 1 because it's 7 characters, but it's got a 100% track record of being correctly recorded over the phone. I rarely have to repeat it, which surprises me actually.

I definitely didn't think about whether this would be easy to use and say over the phone back when I made it, so I just got lucky, I guess. I have been thinking about moving away from Gmail to my own domain name but it will be nowhere near as easy to say over the phone as my current one.

Gmail has forwarding rules. You can keep that address in use and have it push all emails to your own domain. You have it when you need it but you won't need to manage two mailboxes

Defeats the point a little bit, though. The point of moving away from Gmail is to be more in control of my mail. Can't win them all, though, I suppose.

Paging Tony Finch: https://dotat.at/email.html

I spell out my email address when giving it to someone verbally. What is curious to me is that I very rarely get any reaction from customer service bods - maybe they get to deal with all sorts of email address silliness and this is yet another one...

I also thought of you when I read this :)

Apple is giving non-technical users the ability to create ephemeral email addresses. It is good for privacy, but those addresses with random characters will be a nightmare to spell out.. I wish they could have taken the correct-horse-battery-staple approach.

I own an easy-to-spell domain and I know many people like me use <business_name>@mydomain.com for all the services. Sometimes some customer service person at <business_name> does not believe it is a legit email address and insist to get an email from a "reputable" email provider(last time it happened was when I purchased a sedan from a dealership). So I give them a made-up gmail account and will never hear from them.

I use a different strategies when dealing with some industries known for shady business practices. For example, moving companies. If you google "cross country moving", you see a lot of websites with similar domains and business names. Last time I requested quotes for my cross country move, I left emails like usdot-<usdot_registration_number_of_the_business>@mydomain.com. And unsurprisingly, some of my email addresses got leaked/sold to some insurance scammers.

I don’t think those ephemeral addresses are mean to be given out and reused.

I got an email address that I thought was really clever, but it's somewhat hard to read.


People are a bit flummoxed at first, but then it clicks. The jury is still out on it.

Meanwhile my $FirstName.$LastName@gmail.com gets a lot of emails that were meant for other people with the same name, so I guess some level of obscurity is not inherently bad when you have a fairly common name.

In Spanish-colonized countries we have first name, second name, first surname and second surname so we have a bigger space to choose from. I have FirstNameFirstSurnameSecondSurname@gmail.com, which is a little long, but very easy to say and listen (my name and surnames are relatively common). And my HN username is the concatenation of the initials of my 4 names.


I agree with the point about non common top level domains. I was considering getting firstname@lastname.email at one point, but decided against it because I imagine I’d have to explain the concept of the .email tld to a lot of non technical people.

I received a phone call from a jeweller who was distressed that the email address on my order had 'our web address in it'. (Before the `@`.)

I did my best to explain it briefly to a clearly non-technical but savvy-enough-to-worry person; I don't think he quite understood, but more was satisfied having spoken to me that I didn't 'sound like a cyber hacker' or whatever.

Generally I find it nothing but helpful to do this, but it is awkward over the phone, and I often chicken out if asked other than in a web form for my address, and give something more generic.

I received similar entertainment from having to provide my full 'memorable phrase' for password reset over the phone. I only ever expected to enter it into a web form, so I just used a randomly generated string from `pass`. It was 100ch long with symbols, and I had to read the whole damn thing out. I say entertainment, perhaps only in retrospect. The guy obviously enjoyed it though, like there was some point well before the 100th character of random alphanumersymbolic nonsense in response to 'what was your first teacher's name' where it must surely have become clear I had the answer. (Also the faintly chuckled 'yes please sir' when I paused before starting to ask 'er, all of it?')

I've had a couple places where I had to go through customer service to get my new account activated because they thought my <theirname>@<verb>.us looked fishy. But I also have a normal enough sounding four letter .org that I can use to seem normal; and a gmail for those couple of occassions where the other end is really inflexible, otoh, there's a handful of people who give my gmail address to their banks and real estate agents and prospective employers, ugh.

And their kids' daycare / schools, their church, their car loan companies, their real estate agents, their publishers, their horse show judges, their computer game, paintball, and highschool sports practice sites -- yeah, looking at you, Cade C...

But yeah, prospective employers is ugh, indeed: I went to the effort of looking up the intended recipient's phone number and called her -- on my dime, from halfway across the world -- so she wouldn't miss the interview the mail was about... And that bitch Christina C was apparently going to blow it off anyway, so far from a thank you, what I got was a complaint that my accent was hard to understand.

I had this back in the pre-AWS days where our datacenter provider had such a system and I called them every couple of weeks when we needed a disk replaced or something. I memorised the 20 char random string and put it as the answer for all the questions. "The brand of my first car? Wel... [20 char random gibberish]" got even funnier when their policy became to ask at least 3 questions.

For the "memorable phrase" thing, you may have already figured this out, but I find it's better to generate random passphrases for those. A string of words is a _lot_ easier to say and verify.

Yeah, he asked me for a new one as part of the reset (or just for his further amusement?!) - I just used my brain's PRNG for a few words for that.

I've pushed it even harder with a gTLD ('.jetzt' -> 'now' in German). My email looks like ${firstname}@${some-german-word}.jetzt and I never had a problem with German speaking people. Ok, some people, especially state officials, are asking if it's a joke, because they never heard about gTLD's, but it's pretty rare.

I wouldn't use it outside of German speaking regions and that's why I still have a ${lastname}${firstname}@gmail.com address.

Luckily for Danes, the word for 'now' is 'nu', so we've been able to joke around with .nu even before the new gTLDs arrived.

But I think the majority of sites ostensibly hosted in -- uh, is it Nuau or Nauru? Some tiny Pacific island state, anyway -- the majority of sites "there" are in Swedish, I'm almost sure. Because "nu" means "now" in Swedish, too.

I have a particular domain with an email on it, I spell "my name, at, one two three four five six, dot tld".

It's one 2, three 4, and five 6 (244466666).

People usually don't get it, think it's clever, or think it's totally stupid.

So you deliberately made things hard for yourself?

I don't get that. I mean, I think it's clever, but also, totally stupid.

Adding to all these reports of email hacks, I went with:


Where my name has an A in the right place and the last two letters are an obtainable TLD.

Blank stares so far - but no spam. Wholly recommended.

It may be juvenile but I've always gotten a kick out of listening to my brother tell people that his address is reefer_sutherland@xyz.com

I got $FIRSTNAME.$LASTNAME@gmail.com, but lost that account (because teenager). Then I got the domain for $FIRSTNAME-$LASTNAME.$MYTLD, which has served me pretty well.

Two years ago I got $LASTNAME.earth (I have a 4 letter last name). This works really well spoken, for $FIRSTNAME@$LASTNAME.earth.

So according to the article this would result in a score of 2 for: - non common TLD - unknown email hoster (myself)

So according to the article this would result in a score of 2 for: - non common TLD - unknown email hoster (myself)

I was just thinking about using the pgp word list (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGP_word_list) to create highly phonetically distinctive email addresses. Too bad they wouldn't generally be meaningful.

Ah, my mixed feelings over having gone with "dasyatidae" as a 2LD… there were some subsequent potential repicks but thus far they haven't stuck. (IIRC this was also before "stingray" got so associated in the popular consciousness with the police surveillance equipment.)

Would be fun to see a version of this about startup/side project URL naming too

<anything>@<9 character first name>.org

The domain part is the pain. I just couldn’t find a shorter domain that I’d like. So just went with my name.

Some people on the phone replace “.net” with “.com” even after I clearly told them it’s “.net”.

I couldn't get <my.name>@gmail but was able to get the.<my.name>. That works pretty well when it's a place where you've already given your name.

-Except, of course, when your name is packed with weird (to the receiver) letter combinations.

Being Norwegian and working with foreign clients 99% of the time, I at some point started collecting misspellings of my name; I gave up after having collected more than 40 unique ones.

At a former employer, we solved this by creating aliases made up by our employee # - so I was 698@$COMPANY, for instance.

It sure beat spelling out my name for the umpteenth time over a poor satellite phone connection.

Having a long last name and long company domain name, my work address weighs in at 31 characters, not fun to spell over the phone. I just use a different address if I have to spell it over the phone.

I gave up long ago, I now tell my employer to use a much shorter name that is easy in most languages and is similar to my real one.

I use firstname@lastname.name. Oddly, the part that tends to throw people is the .name domain, which seems to be unaccountably unpopular.

There are some funny youtube videos of a guy giving the most ridiculous email addresses to cashiers. eg. ilikegarlicbread@gmail.com

My wife uses something like sendmestuff44@<major provider>.com for her junk mail which gets a lot of funny looks from cashiers but works great.

in the USA I usually have to spell it out: Jay Aye Are Ee Kay , and I know I'm speaking with someone that has Slavic roots when they say "oh I know" ;)

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