Sweden to phase out Å, Ä and Ö

...was the subject of The Local's April Fool's joke this year (scroll down for the full story), and Swedish papers joined in the annual fun with an array of tall stories.

Cash-spouting collection machines for dog poo, Göran Persson as a local mayor and a baby gorilla-turned-fugitive were some of the more creative ideas, while the trusty April Fool staple, EU bureaucracy, reared its head in more than one Swedish paper.

Nerikes Allehanda’s April 1st exclusive revealed that former prime minister Göran Persson was considering becoming the new mayor in Örebro. The tip-off came from Erik Fichtelius , the journalist behind the controversial SVT documentary about Persson.

Persson “neither confirmed nor denied” the move but apparently gave a long interview to NA’s reporter.

“Örebro is a tiny little municipality – you could probably manage it part time,” he is reported to have said.

Dagens Nyheter was one of those papers that went down the EU route. Warmer weather means that autumn holidays are now viable and productivity is lost when everyone takes the summer off, reasons the EU. So according to DN Swedes who want to secure time off in the summer must apply by April 1st.

Criticism of the idea came from a British Euro MP named Hollie Day, which may have alerted DN’s sharper readers. And anyone who saw The Local’s joke a couple of years ago may have smelled a rat: then, for similar reasons, we claimed that Sweden was planning to move Christmas to February.

Sundsvalls Tidning also targeted the EU with a warning that beans would be taxed from next year – due to their gaseous contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Sydsvenskan’s readers were informed of ‘dog poo collection centres’ which would pay out two kronor for every 100g of the doggie deposit. It was developed by researchers at Lund university.

Perhaps the most sensitive joke came from Swedish Radio Östergötland, which announced that Enzo the baby gorilla had done a bunk from Kolmården zoo on his first birthday.

“We are naturally completely devastated,” said Silvi Bohlin at the zoo.

The Local’s contribution to the day’s fun is below. You weren’t fooled, were you?

Sweden to phase out Å, Ä and Ö

A parliamentary working group has proposed scrapping Sweden’s ‘complex letters’ Å, Ä and Ö, citing globalization and technological competitiveness as the main factors.

The Swedish government will now launch an inquiry into the matter, with a full recommendation anticipated in the autumn.

“Language is constantly changing and we must be prepared to meet the linguistic challenges of the modern world,” said the Centre Party’s Åsa Bäckström, who chaired the working group.

“Communication barriers are a hindrance to competitiveness, so we should do whatever we can – within reason – to eliminate them,” said Bäckström in a press statement.

The change will not be addressed by legislation, but the government is expected to attempt to phase out the use of the three letters over a period of five years with a series of economic incentives.

These will target the technology, media and publishing industries with reduced VAT for computer hardware and software, newspapers and books which stop using Å, Ä and Ö.

Instead, advised the working group, Å should be replaced by AA, Ä by AE and Ö by OE. Many international media already use these letter combinations when reporting on Swedish affairs, Bäckström pointed out.

The plan is supported by the Swedish Association of Technology Employers.

“When you look at the cost to Sweden of keeping these letters, you can see the benefit of scrapping them,” said the association’s chairman, Torbjörn Nilsson.

“To a large extent this process has already begun for individuals or companies that use the internet in their communication. Email addresses and web site addresses simply ignore these letters – and people simply just that.”

However, the move has not been welcomed by all. The Swedish Institute for Language and Learning in Ystad noted that other countries seem to be more inclined to stand up for their cultural and linguistic heritage.

“What we see in Germany and France, for example, is the complete opposite of this. Like them, we should be guarding our language, not giving it up,” said press officer Göran Åklund.

Båstad council was also quick to reject the move.

“We already have enough trouble with English-speakers who think the name of our town is amusing. If the Å becomes a regular A it will just make things worse,” said Social Democrat councillor Pär Öberg.

“We might as well go the whole hog and include an R.”