My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus, The Ündeniable Ümlaut, is now online. In it, I take a look at rock dots (Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead); the frozen-dairy umlaut (Häagen-Dazs, Freshëns, Yogen Früz); the flexible umlaut (YogaMöm); the restaurant umlaut (Füd, Seäsonal); the Brooklyn umlaut (Bed|Stü); and miscellaneous diacriticals (Børn Shoes, Melōränge melons).
Access to the full article is restricted to subscribers; here’s a täste:
Most sources trace the American fad for gratuitous umlauts back to Blue Öyster Cult, the rock band founded in 1970 in upstate New York. According to the band’s Wikipedia entry, the music critic Richard Meltzer suggested the umlaut “because heavy metal is Wagnerian.” Motörhead followed suit in 1975 (“I only put it there to look mean,” the group’s lead singer said of the umlaut); the double-umlauting of Mötley Crüe, formed in 1980, is said to have been inspired by the label on a Löwenbräu beer bottle. These “metal umlauts,” or “rock dots,” were spoofed in 1984 by the parody band Spinal Tap, whose Gothic logo contained an umlauted N.
UPDATE: John McGarvey, a copywriter in London, has informed me via Twitter of a UK dessert brand called Gü Puds (that’s pud as in “pudding,” British for “dessert”; pud has a very different meaning in American English). Yep, it’s another yummy smiley umlaut:
The company explains the name (punctuation sic):
Back when we were born in 2003 – we thought long and hard for a suitable name for our decadent treats. We began by playing around with the word goût – French for taste. However, gout in English refers to an unsightly disease of the foot; not at all appropriate for puds! We eventually came up with Gü (pronounced ‘goo’) – which evokes the gooey oozing nature of our puddings.