September 16, 2007

Weird tradename umlaut

Weirdest use of fake diacritical marks on letters in brand names that I have seen recently: I bought a couple of food items at Dublin Airport store run by Wrights of Howth and took away a bag saying:

Wrights öf Howth

I just have no idea what they think those umlaut dots on top of the "o" are supposed to be doing. Most references to the long-established Dublin fish company in question display no umlaut. I would have expected an apostrophe (Wright's), but they apparently never use that. Just an inexplicable umlaut — at the Dublin Airport store and on its bags, but apparently not most places on the web where they are mentioned. I guess my worry is that some advertising agency was actually paid money to develop branding ideas and came up with this one in the hopes that it would get them publicity... like a mention on Language Log. Hmm. I guess it worked, didn't it? However, you will not be seeing any nonsensical typographical re-branding here on L@ngu@ge Lög.™

[Update: These fake umlauts are of course called "heavy metal umlauts". Wikipedia offers you more than you could possibly want to know about them in this article. Arnold Zwicky briefly discussed them on Language Log here, and Mark Liberman added a note about other fanciful uses of diacritics like the macron here. My surprise was not occasioned by seeing yet another brand using a heavy metal umlaut, but at seeing the device used by a reputable Irish fishmonger.]

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at September 16, 2007 06:09 AM