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On Wednesday, October 22, 2003, at 11:14 , Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:

> At 04:43 22.10.2003, Costentin Cornomorus wrote:
>
>> I never liked umlauts. Even when they're
>> appropriate in English (coöperate, etc.).
>
> Srictly speaking an umlaut as used in German,
> Swedish, Finnish, Estonian or Hungarian (I'm
> sure I'm forgetting someone) is technically
> nòt the same thing as an English diëresis,
> although I'll grant they look deceptively
> similar(*).

Strictly speaking the double-dot superscript
diacritic is called _trema_.  The terms 'umlaut'
and 'di(a)eresis' refer to _uses_ of the trema.

English, of course, never uses the trema to
denote umlaut; the trema in coöperate denotes
diaeresis.  But this use is, surely, archaic
now.

> FWIW laughing or grinding your teeth over
> all those URLs and mail addresses with omitted
> diacritics is a national pastime in Sweden.

I'm afraid most of my fellow countrymen seem to
regard  diacritics as optional ornaments used by
foreigners for no good purpose.  My wife gallantly
tries to show generations of schoolkids that French
è and é have _different_ sounds - the accents are
not just fancy decoration to be ignored.

This attitude means the "person in the street" is
IME most unlikely to know what 'diacritic' means
and will refer to all such marks as "accents". I've
seen, in writing, reference to "the umlaut accent".
Ach-y-fi!

As for 'trema' - I've rarely seen it in writing (in
English - the term is common enough in French, tho
both languages have borrowed it from Greek) and never
heard it in speech. People talk about the trema as
'umlaut' or 'diaeresis' at random according to the
name they first met, with no regard to the way it's
being used.

> One reason I don't have _Jonsson_ in my mail
> address is/was that people thought my surname
> to be _Jönsson_, which it ain't.

To keep anglophones happy, you could just respell
it  "Johnson"    :-)

[snip]

> (*) Umlauts used to be small superscript _e_s.
> This was common in Fraktur fonts and not unknown
> in Roman.

Yep, I know. And according to one German visitor
that stayed with us the 'umlauted' letters are written
separately when in block capitals.  She gave me a book
about "PUH DER BAER"   :-)

> Perhaps the change wasn't all that
> lamentable, but a distinction wàs lost.

'twas indeed.

It has led to the ignorant abomination of 'Nöel' (and I
kid you not) which appeared in a advertising campaign
here a few years back.  But, of course, for most Brits
'Nöel' is just as good as 'Noël' - it just some foreigners'
"umlaut accent" which doesn't matter one way or another.

I hastened to add, I am *not* one of those Brits.

Ray
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