The heavy metal umlaut encroaches into Seattle real estate


The heavy metal umlaut is creeping into Seattle real estate.

I submit for your consideration the condominium known as Bleü. I can’t even tell what language they are trying to pretend to be.

There are other properties in Seattle with dots, but at least the dots aren’t gratuitous.

Hotel Ändra in Belltown takes its name from the Swedish word meaning to change. (The hotel is consistent with its use of the dots, but outsiders frequently omit them, changing the hotel’s name to Andra, which means “Others”.)

Hjärta Condos takes its name from the Swedish word meaning heart. Hjärta is in the Ballard neighborhood, the traditional center of Scandinavian life in Seattle. (The people who run the Web site can’t seem to remember to put the dots over the a. They often spell it Hjarta, which is not a word in Swedish.)

Note that in Swedish, the dots over the a and o are not umlauts nor are they diaereses. They’re just dots. The ä and ö are not variants of a and o; they are letters in their own right. Sort of how like Q and R are like O and P with a tail, but nobody thinks of them as related letters. It’s just a superficial graphical similarity.

Comments (29)
  1. Olivier says:

    Ikea housing?

  2. Ondra says:

    "The ä and ö are not variants of a and o; they are letters in their own right."

    What a language considers a letter variant and what it considers a separate letter is an inconsistent, chaotic mess anyway. Swedish "ä" and "ö" fulfill the same roles as German "ä" and "ö", but the former apparently considers them separate letters while the latter doesn't.

    An example for an even greater level of chaos is Czech: the official alphabet consists of A, B, C, Č, D, Ď, E, F, G, H, CH, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ň, O, P, Q, R, Ř, S, Š, T, Ť, U, V, W, X, Y, Z and Ž, in that order. Lengthened vowels — Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ů, Ý — as well as the edge/corner/basket/nut case of "Ě" fall by the wayside despite being equally important. On the other hand, the CH digraph is a separate letter.

    So yeah, if you are told that a language considers something a letter in its own right (or doesn't), just nod and smile.

  3. Aleske Evdokimov says:

    In Russian, ё also isn't just a е with diaeresis or umlaut, but most natives write all the thousands of ё-containing words with е.

    This stupid tradition comes from aged Russian typewriter layout (which didn't contain this letter) and makes me sad :(

  4. David Arthur says:

    Ondra: If for no other reason, it matters because a name starting with Å won't be anywhere near the As in a Swedish phone book, index, or other alphabetised list.

  5. Anonymous Coward says:

    ‘the dots over the a and o are not umlauts’ – Actually, they are umlauts, just not caused by Swedish phonological processes. The use of these letters was established by the Gustav Vasa Bible, which was translated from German by people guided by centuries of German influence. There's more to the story, like how they appropriated ä for ae and aa, but the characters came from German, and the dots are German umlauts, whether the Swedes wish to acknowledge this or not.

    On the other hand, the ä and ö don't fulfil quite the same role as in German, contrary to what Ondra says, because whereas they in Swedish stand for the sounds, in German they stand for a phonological process which results in the sounds. In German, most ¨ are actual German umlauts, whereas in Swedish they don't stand for a Swedish phonological process, as previously stated.

  6. Henry Skoglund says:

    I remember first time I saw that umlaut marketing stunt: it was an icecream called Frusen Glädjé, somewhere in the 80s. I seem to remember the box had a map of Scandinavia on top of it, where Stockholm was positioned where Copenhagen is.

  7. bzakharin says:

    @PastorGL,

    It's much much more complicated than that. "ё" was actually phased in in response to a shift in pronunciation of some words spelled with a "е". As such, the two are very much related to each other. The "stupid tradition" of not using it has many contributing factors including that it was only introduced (as in first used in a published work) in 1795, and never fully adopted (despite Soviet legislation in the 1940s), that the dialect from which the sound alteration originated was considered uneducated, that it slows down handwriting (Russian has no other letters with any disconnected parts requiring one to go back to "dot the i's and cross thee t's").

    Some words are spelled and pronounced with either letter today, and some shifted from one to the other (in both directions) decisively. Some of this is a consequence of lack of consistent adoption of the new letter, but some is just leftover regional variation, such as what necessitated the letter in the first place. It is noteworthy that "ё" is seldom used in transliterations from English despite this causing a difference in pronunciation beyond what would normally be expected.

    In Russian, officially, the dots above the "е" don't have a name, so it's true that it isn't a diaeresis or umlaut officially, but it is pretty close to an umlaut functionally. The letter (but not the sound it makes) is borrowed from French where it is a diaeresis.

  8. Gabe says:

    Henry Skoglund: I don't think that "Frusen Glädjé" is an umlaut marketing stunt. The phrase "Frusen glädje" is a legitimate Swedish phrase that uses the letter with the dots.

    Now Häagen-Dazs, on the other hand, is purely a marketing stunt. It's supposed to "sound Danish", but Danish doesn't have umlauts or a 'zs' digraph.

  9. BOFH says:

    Frusen Glädje is correct Swedish, Frusen Glädjé is something else.

    I like how they solved the question of which city is "the capitol of Scandinavia", by merging the two.

    An example of funny umlauting is the heavy metal band Trojan who thought their name would look more awesome as Tröjan.

    So the band's t-shirt (tröjan) read Tröjan.

  10. Mike Dunn says:

    I bet the thinking behind "Bleü" was "Let's find something that we can trademark; Americans will just ignore the dots anyway."  It's almost, but not quite, French.  "Bleu" is a word, but the sequence "eü" is pretty odd, and I don't think it's even phonologically legal.

  11. SimonRev says:

    @Henry — I love some of the Swede's marketing stuff.  I remember waiting for a bus in Malmö last year around 7:00 am, in the rain and freezing temperatures, when someone comes up and thrusts an ice cream cone in my hand. (They were giving them to everyone).  

    Last week, I stepped outside of the train station and someone gave me a bag of frozen green beans

  12. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    The story of the German origin of the (non-)umlauted Swedish vocals reminds me of the story of Ñ in Spanish (which is also a letter on its own, not an N with a tilde). The same sound is represented in Portuguese as "nh", and in French and Italian as "gn". The origin of Ñ is also a couple of letters: in early Spanish, around the 9th Century, the sound was rendered as "nn" (two N letters). In order to save space, copyists started writing one "n" above the other, and the one on the top quickly converted to the wriggling line that is used now.

  13. Kirby FC says:

    "Hotel Ändra . . . . outsiders frequently omit them, changing the hotel's name to Andra"

    "Hjärta Condos . . . . the Web site can't seem to remember to put the dots over the a. They often spell it Hjarta, which is not a word in Swedish."

    To most English speaking people, in the United States at least, dots above letters and other funny marks have no meaning and so they are ignored.  And so most people see no difference between Ändra and Andra or Hjärta and Hjarta.

  14. bzakharin says:

    Correction to my parenthetical above: there is also a "й" (with a breve) which does require one to dot the i (I can't believe I forgot that since it *is* a variant of the "i" sound). That is also often omitted in handwritten text, however.

  15. alegr1 says:

    @Boriz Zakharin:

    A good way to figure out pronunciation of the past days is to look at the rhymes in poetry. For example, Евгений Онегин, first chapter, stanza XXXV:

    Что ж мой Онегин? Полусонный

    В постелю с бала едет он:

    А Петербург неугомонный

    Уж барабаном пробужден.

    "он" and "пробужден" are rhyming, thus "ё" would be appropriate here. At the same time, other rhymes show that in some words, there was plain "е", rather than "ё": утомленный/блаженной.

    I didn't find old editions of it, to check more.

  16. alegr1 says:

    >For example, Евгений Онегин,

    Another good example there: Розы/слезы

  17. frenchguy says:

    @Michael Dunn: There are indeed no words with eü in French. The only letter combination where "ü" is used in French is "güe"; it is used when the "u" needs to be pronounced instead of just indicating that the "g" should not be pronounced like a "j" (which would normal before an "e" – in French, "j" does not have a "d" sound at the start, though). Not very long ago, a word like "aigüe" was written "aiguë" (same pronunciation), but it was deemed more logical to put the diaeresis on the letter whose pronunciation was actually changed (the "e" is silent regardless).

    [FYI: In English phonetics, the "j without a d" sound is typically spelled "zh". -Raymond]
  18. Joshua says:

    @voo: Hiccough has the sound of cup. / I think I've had enough.

  19. Jeff says:

    I believe this came from the restaurants first.

    sidestreetgrille.com/burger.php

    Check out the extra bleü cheese (lower left). I have seen this in several restaurants recently.

  20. voo says:

    @frenchguy Interesting larousse* still puts the diaeresis over the e, which is also where I would expect to see it. Seeing an ü in French would certainly strike me as weird, but I'll defer to the native speaker. Although if the plan was to simplify French and make it more logical, starting with where to put the diaeresis wouldn't have been my first choice ;) But then as a German native speaker I'm really not allowed to talk about other languages being complex..

    *http://www.larousse.fr/…/1876

  21. Anonymous Swedish coward says:

    Hotel Ändra is just stupid. A hotel name wouldn't be "Ändra" in Swedish; it would be "Förändring" which is the noun form of Ändra, or "Förändringen" which is the definite form, or worst case "Ändrande" which is sort of a non-existing noun. I bet the owner simply babelfished "Change" to tie in to that sad Obama peace prize nonsense.

    I urge you to forcibly take down that sign and rename it Hotel Växelmynt.

    [Hotel Omklädning might be more um interesting. -Raymond]
  22. frenchguy says:

    @voo: As I said, the change is very recent (proposed in 1990, officialized in 2008) and has not been imposed (so people can continue to use the previous spellings, though schools teach the new ones). Having studied German, I can tell you German spelling is easy compared to French spelling (though the language has other complexities, like strong verbs and plurals).

    [As a native English speaker who knows a little Chinese, I find it amusing that a German and a Frenchman are discussing which of their languages has worse spelling… -Raymond]
  23. Random832 says:

    [FYI: In English phonetics, the "j without a d" sound is typically spelled "zh". -Raymond]

    I've always found that interesting, because while that is true in principle (and you see it in transliterated names like Brezhnev), there are not, to my knowledge, actually any English words that contain that sound spelled in that way. (There is no shortage of English words with the sound spelled in other ways, e.g. vision or measure, and of course French loanwords that spell it as "j".)

    [English is weird that way. Also: schwa. -Raymond]
  24. alegr1 says:

    >I bet the owner simply babelfished "Change" to tie in to that sad Obama peace prize nonsense.

    Just perused IKEA catalog.

  25. Jon says:

    @alegr1: Good thing they weren't looking at the desk section… I feel a Hotel Jerker would attract some unwanted attention.

  26. Jon says:

    @alegr1: Good thing they weren't looking at the desk section… I feel a Hotel Jerker would attract some unwanted attention.

  27. Joshua Kwan says:

    I was just at restaurant in New Orleans called Lüke. It was French, and as a near-native French speaker that really confused me… it's just "Luc" in French. Nothing heavy-metal about that place, though!!

  28. frenchguy says:

    [As a native English speaker who knows a little Chinese, I find it amusing that a German and a Frenchman are discussing which of their languages has worse spelling… -Raymond]

    I'll grant you that English spelling is even worse than French spelling. As far as I know, Chinese is not supposed to be written phonetically (most of the time, anyway), while English, French and German are, so it's another kettle of fish entirely.

  29. Sam says:

    > As far as I know, Chinese is not supposed to be written phonetically

    Chinese characters are comprised of radicals which provide meaning and sound. A good Chinese speaker can decompose a character and identify the phonetic parts. I've been told that a lot of the major changes in Simplified Chinese is to eliminate a lot of the non-phonetic radicals.

Comments are closed.