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I have already finished my Mathematics Ph.D. application form for several universities. However, I noticed that my email address in my CV and personal information contains the number "666", which, I recently learned, is the number of devils. I'm not a native speaker of western countries. I'm from Asia and "666" means auspicious in my language. I've used this email address to apply for Ph.D. programs at several universities in Germany and the U.S. I'm wondering whether this would make me get rejected by universities' committees.

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    Some discussion, mostly about numbers in different cultures, has been moved to chat. Please see this FAQ before posting a comment below this one.
    – cag51
    Dec 14, 2022 at 12:40

11 Answers 11

56

Don't worry.

I would find it extremely surprising if a European reacts very negatively to 666. Most people would be somewhat aware of a connection to "The Beast" in the biblical book of revelations, but they wouldn't really care. (I've grown up in Germany and spend most of my career in the UK, for reference.) On the other hand, it does not seem to be that rare for people in the US to feel eg uncomfortable with a bill of $6.66, and to buy a little bit extra to avoid it. But even in the US, I expect that the overlap between people doing that and people sitting on admission committees for Math grad schools is small.

Your email address isn't really what people evaluate, and most will just ignore it. Having numbers in your email address may be read as a little unprofessional. If someone notices the 666 they might think you're trying to be a bit edgy by flirting with satanism, but almost no one would care. People applying for PhDs tend to be young, and thus have a decent excuse for appearing a bit unprofessional and/or trying to be edgy.

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    In terms of the general applicability of this answer, email addresses someone finds genuinely offensive might well be a problem. Dec 12, 2022 at 13:09
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    Yes. There is a story of a female prof recieving an application from someone with an email address of MenAreSuperior. Sender must have been aware.... But then why bother to apply? Dec 12, 2022 at 13:18
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    @Arno actually, I was quite surprised how many numbers are considered dog whistles for neo-nazis. Apparently it's common knowledge in Germany, but I was very surprised by their list of banned number plates, you can't have any sequence containing "88" or something? I don't actually remember why, and my Google Fu is not doing well today.
    – Clumsy cat
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:18
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    @Clumsycat 88 stands for HH (8th letter of the alphabet), which in turn stands for "Heil Hitler". But when seeing an email address with an 88 in it, I'd think "year of birth" long before "f**king neo nazi". And the rest of the dog-whistle numbers are sufficiently obscure that I don't remember them.
    – Arno
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:26
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    FWIW as an American, I've never actually experienced someone being outright uncomfortable with a bill of $6.66 or other occurrences of 666. The most I've seen is that someone would comment on it, like "hey 666, that's funny", but most of the time it just passes unnoticed. So my experience is that it's even less of a thing than this answer implies. (Of course, my experience is not necessarily typical, but my guess would be that in general it is even less of a thing than this answer implies.)
    – David Z
    Dec 13, 2022 at 19:18
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While I agree with the answer of Arno that this shouldn't be a problem, there is a technological fix.

It is probably easy for you to create a new email address, say at Gmail, and forward everything from either of them to the other, as you choose.

FWIW, there are other numbers with negative interpretations, 88 for example. And some email systems generate addresses with numeric elements as well.

Applying from an academic institution's email address is sometimes advantageous (minimally) and you might be able to get one from your current institution for purposes of application. You will probably get a new one from any institution you join in the future.

If you are a member of a professional society in your field then they might also make it possible to use an email address with the association name: [email protected], say (UnderwaterBasketWeavers).

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    @CrisLuengo, yes, it applies only to the future or to others who may be in a similar situation but earlier in the process. What's done is done.
    – Buffy
    Dec 12, 2022 at 22:53
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    @Criggie, yes, but AFAIK, only gmail does that. With gmail, even if you register a name with the dots, [email protected], it will still work without them.
    – Buffy
    Dec 13, 2022 at 0:09
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    What is the negative interpretation of 88? Dec 13, 2022 at 2:38
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    @AgnishomChattopadhyay It's used by neonazis for HH, or Heil Hitler, because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. Ruining it for people born in 1988 or in the French département of the Vosges. Dec 13, 2022 at 8:19
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    Just make sure you don't apply using an email address from the National Educational Welfare Board, the statutory agency in Ireland. They use addresses of the form [email protected].
    – tell
    Dec 14, 2022 at 14:34
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A side aspect not mentioned so far but very important is the remainder of the email address.

There is a huge difference in perception between the email [email protected] vs. [email protected]. The first would most likely be considered unprofessional, whereas the second would definitely not.

Based on my experience, any email address not containing your name, some abbreviation of your name, or being from a professional (e.g., university/personal) domain could easily be perceived as unprofessional, i.e., seen as your spam/childhood/teeny email address. However, perception might vary vastly depending on the professional area and their culture. I.e., computer scientists would most likely not care if the email itself is sufficiently professional, whereas law professionals might have an entirely different attitude. Given that you say math I would suspect a reaction closer to computer science than to law.

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While you may not be flat-out rejected for using '666', it is possible it may be interpreted differently from what you fear. Namely, without knowing you or the reason behind your choice, some people might think you as "cheeky", as some kid trying to be "a bad kid", similar to the style of some heavy metal bands. Such bias might have some negative effect; for example, while they will not avoid talking to you when you talk to them, someone might avoid initiating contact, or might avoid joint work, etc.

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    Second this. I would agree it's less likely someone will reject you because of a Satanism connection, but more likely someone would think you are immature for including an unprofessional / juvenile tag on your professional email address. A friend of mine had a childhood email address which ended in 69. He made it before he knew the "adult" connection, and never bothered to change it. I don't believe he ever lost a job offer over it, but it definitely caused some raised eyebrows which were totally avoidable. Dec 13, 2022 at 17:52
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    It's going to depend on the rest of the address. john.smith666 won't attract much reaction but satan.child666 would. Unfortunately there's a bit of a grey area in the middle, and if you have a foreign name that people don't recognise, it may fall into the grey area.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:01
  • @StuartF. The latter can be easily rectified by changing your legal name to something other than Satan. Lucifer or Beelzebub are nice names that come to mind. Dec 15, 2022 at 0:45
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I suggest for applications going forward, change. Anything that distracts from your merits as a student should not be present on your application. While the odds are low that anyone will even see it, getting a new email address is fast and easy.

OTOH, if you already sent them in, don't worry about it.

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It's like a first date with someone you really like. Do you wear your old ratty shoes that she would be fine with if you were dating? Or do you want to wear your nicer shoes on your first date to make a good first impression? Most people would wear their nicer shoes.

It's not a big deal, but say if even 1 in 200 applications get rejected for it, do you want to lose that chance? I wouldn't. I would have a slightly more professional email address to use.

BTW this wouldn't be offensive to anyone in academia, but it's an "edgy" thing that a teenager might put in their gamer tag. If it affects your application it will be because it will give an appearance of silliness and immaturity when you are applying for something very serious.

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  • "Most people would wear their nicer shoes." TIL Dec 14, 2022 at 23:18
  • @StephanBranczyk. To be fair, I suspect that's based on anecdotal evidence that does not account for people that have only one pair of shoes Dec 15, 2022 at 0:47
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If they think you thought it was amusing to choose an email address with 666 in it, then yes, it could work against you. They won't have the fact that it's considered auspicious in some Asian cultures uppermost in their minds.

If on the other hand it's clear that's it's an institutional address and you just happen to have been allotted the number 666, without you having any say in the matter, that's different. I don't think that would affect how they consider your application one way or the other. (In Asia, though, it would probably be to your benefit.)

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All of these comments in my opinion dancing around the issue. If you feel for one second this may have an impact on your potential admission to these Universities, go with your GUT and just make a new email solely for applying for these things. It takes two seconds to do and all of your doubt/fear is eliminated instantly. With respect to the ones you have sent though, It could have an impact and it could not have an impact. While we would all hope to live in a perfect world where these things do not matter, we don't, and especially in the United States, people will kill/lie/cheat/ect for their religion. It is just safer to make a new one, but don't worry about the ones you have already sent out.

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From the general mood and trends of comments and answers, it seems to that the majority of people in Academia:SE never had to deal with the pious, white collar America.

In short: as long as you are dealing with academics, whether you have 666 or Satan or Iblis or Shaytan or Mara in your email, you will be fine. As soon as your email is screened by someone non-academics (for example: secretary office of some full professor, secretary office of some head of department), in some "burocratic" functions, your email is most likely already involuntarily screened out by the spam filter set up for the institution (may apply also to academics) or voluntarily sent to the spam folder.

Email was born as an informal mean of comunications for nerds, it became a super formal way to reach out to people. Please remember that whatever you write in an email is, in general, forever reachable and readable by everyone ([think of an email as a postcard])2 .

The western world expects the email to be in the format

[email protected]/.org/.edu

[email protected]/.org/.edu .

Anything else is likely to be filtered out by AI-powered algorithms or pious-powered secretaries.

Good luck!

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    Do you have any evidence? It's common for people to have emails with numbers in for disambiguation (e.g. in a large organisation); some organisations number jsmith2, jsmith3, jsmith4, jsmith5, but people who have the choice may use their date of birth or something else which is easier for themselves to remember (not least because it may create conflict to use sequential numbering if jsmith5 is more senior than jsmith).
    – Stuart F
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:04
  • @StuartF People who have the choice may use whatever they want, but giving out personal details (such as birth date) may seem a good idea, however it is terrible in the general framework of digital security. On the other hand, using a number may trigger an unconscious (or semi-conscious) response (in fact I find this question very interesting). I would not be surprised if the automatic filtering relies on an external defined list of harmful words and numbers, which built up by over-zelant contributors would include anything, from the birthday of Hitler to the age of Bin Laden.
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 15, 2022 at 8:06
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You are not likely to have a problem. Western countries are on average less religious when it comes to observance despite being of christian heritage .Along with this they are generally less superstitious.

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    You have not traveled much around the most Western country of them all I take it :) Dec 15, 2022 at 0:48
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Yeah no... This isn't going to be seen as controversial by any respectable institution.

In Europe, it's entirely a non-issue since society is basically secular.

Even in the the United States, you should be fine as academics tend not to be religious fanatics. If you do have any issues because of it, you probably wouldn't have wanted to work in those institutions anyway.

It's also worth adding that discriminating against someone on the basis of them potentially being a Satanist would be massively illegal in basically every western nation.

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    Even academics who don't believe in the devil are going to see this e-mail address and judge that the sender is immature, at least, and possibly some kind of radical weirdo.
    – workerjoe
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:47
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    That's really not the case in my experience... Dec 13, 2022 at 14:59
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    @workerjoe I would expect such a person to listen to rock music and be among the finest people running around...
    – Mark
    Dec 13, 2022 at 23:16
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    It isn't a Theocracy (yet). Dec 13, 2022 at 23:42

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