Old 'Swedish' town in US road sign spelling row

Maddy Savage
Maddy Savage - [email protected] • 13 Apr, 2015 Updated Mon 13 Apr 2015 15:48 CEST
Old 'Swedish' town in US road sign spelling row

Lindström, Minnesota, is grabbing global headlines after American officials removed the dots from the tiny town's road sign, sparking a huge debate about how strongly its residents should cling to their Swedish roots.


Despite spelling the town Lindström and using the slogan 'America's Little Sweden' on its website and marketing materials, local officials recently agreed to a new road sign spelling, swapping the Swedish letter 'ö', for a regular 'o'. The sign now indicates to drivers that they have arrived in Lindstrom.
"We did ask MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) to let us keep the spelling but it is bound by new rules. We have a good relationship with the department and we didn't want to bully them," city administrator John Olinger told The Local.
The American town, which has a population of just 4442 people is named after Daniel Lindström, a Swedish immigrant who settled there in the 1800s. Around one in three people living there are believed to have Nordic roots and it is twinned with Tingsryd in southern Sweden.
The previous, correctly spelled sign had stood by the road leading into Lindström for twenty years.
But MnDOT's current guidelines state that town and city names should not include dots, symbols or apostrophes.
Olinger has mixed views about the significance of the decision, which was spotted by an eagle-eyed news reporter who he says has since whipped up "a media storm".
"Being Americans we are all from someplace else so it important to hold on to our roots as it defines who we are," he told The Local.
"But to be honest most people didn't notice the dots were missing. As Americans I guess we do forget that some languages have different alphabets. Most people here don't speak Swedish. Many of them don't even have a passport and haven't been abroad."
However others have been very vocal about their concerns.
Swedish-born Lena Normann, who teaches her mother tongue at the University of Minnesota as well as spending part of each year in Sweden told local US newspaper StarTribune: "These are two completely different letters representing two completely different sounds".
She added that the distinction between an o and an ö is critical for students learning the language.
Lindström is one if eight towns in the region with Swedish roots. According to StarTribune around 3000 Swedish tourists visit the area each year, including some of the royal family in 1996.
It is estimated that more than a million Swedes left their homeland for the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Local has contacted Lindström's twin town Tingsryd for comment.


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