Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Two pricks: The Swedish umlaut

How do I say the two pricks over the O and A?

I’ve been asked that a number of times. Most often with a crooked smile and a wink by the Swedes doing the asking.

Call it an umlaut. Umlauts are trendy
That’s my standard suggestion while giving reference to Motörhead and Häagen-Dazs


However, the pricks (ok, you can just as easily and less controversially call them dots, though the “Swede’s joke” comes from the direct translation from Swedish; två prickor to describe the dots ) are not accent marks (as we English speakers might be inclined to call them.) The Å, Ä and Ö are now regarded as completely individual letters (and tag on to the tail end of the alphabet.) And thanks to the popularity of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling trilogy umlauts are returning to their trendier status among popularized punctuation.

A friend linked (via Facebook, my lifeline to the world) a wonderfully humorous New Yorker short “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut” by Nora Ephron to my page. It’s fabulously written though the “native(ish)” Stockholmer in me would like to tidy up the travel description of getting around Stockholm. (Sorry, but you just can’t “Take Stora Essingen and Gröndal into Södermalm” while you can drive Essinge Leden via Gröndal into Södermalm)

I haven’t read the books yet. Might have to pick one up and wander the streets of Stockholm through Larsson and Lisbeth Salander’s eyes.

I’ll read it in Swedish, but I’m pleased to know that the pricks remain in the English translation.

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