Exploring the History of the Mac Command Key “Pretzel”

Many of us frequently use the Command key on our keyboards, often without knowing much about the peculiar, looping symbol it bears. This symbol, known as strange, swirly square and officially cataloged as Unicode U+2318, has a rich history and a curious journey into becoming a key part of modern computing.

Historically, this design has been recognized in various forms across Europe for millennia, originally known as the Bowen knot and also referred to as Saint John’s Arms.

It wasn’t until 1984 that this ancient symbol was repurposed for a modern technological function. The transformation occurred when Folklore.org recounts, Steve Jobs, dissatisfied with the excessive use of the Apple logo on the keyboard for MacDraw, demanded a new design.

It was Susan Kare, an artist at Apple, who found the symbol on a signpost during her search for a new icon.

This symbol, commonly used in Scandinavia to denote points of interest or cultural heritage sites, was then adopted for the Command key. The team at Apple was thrilled with the choice, marking a significant moment in the history of computing interfaces.

Do you have a favorite term for this iconic squiggle? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Linda is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing insightful and engaging content to Apple enthusiasts. With a deep understanding of Apple products like the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, Linda offers readers valuable tips, reviews, and news updates. His articles reflect a genuine love for technology and a commitment to keeping the Apple community informed. Linda’s clear and approachable writing style makes complex topics accessible, ensuring that every reader can stay up-to-date with the latest in the Apple world.