Friday, April 27, 2012

ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO: The New Yorker's Mary Norris explains their whole thing about the diaeresis:
The fact is that, absent the two dots, most people would not trip over the “coop” in “cooperate” or the “reel” in “reelect” (though they might pronounce the “zoo” in “zoological,” a potential application of the diaeresis that we get no credit for resisting). And yet we use the diaeresis for the same reason that we use the hyphen: to keep the cow out of co-workers. 
Basically, we have three options for these kinds of words: “cooperate,” “co-operate,” and “coöperate.” Back when the magazine was just getting started, someone decided that the first misread and the second was ridiculous, and adopted the diaeresis as the most elegant solution with the broadest application. The diaeresis is the single thing that readers of the letter-writing variety complain about most.
There's a poll on the right-hand side, for old time's sake.

19 comments:

  1. Joseph J, Finn9:01 AM

    I have no shame in admitting that I laughed out loud at the conclusion of that.

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  2. BeeFan9:40 AM

    I like the diaeresis.  I always hesitate over "cooperate".  It looks like "Cooper"-ate, as though someone's going to be turned into Gary Cooper.

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  3. KCosmo's neighbor10:08 AM

    Funny you should bring this up now. Last weekend my daughter, Anne, and I were having a discussion about the umlaut--she decided she wanted to add one over the "e" in her name. I told her that it was not really part of our American/English alphabet, that people would think her name was Anna (maybe), and that it was a bit pretentious. What can I tell you--I chose her name carefully and take offense to her wanting to change it. (Of course, I know it's not a big deal, but I was kind of stuck on the "omg, could you be more pretentious?" reaction she might get from her 11-year-old, often judgmental peers--maybe I'm projecting). But now that I'm looking into it a little bit more...it seems that if it were over the "e," that would reflect Albanian usage; Germans seem to use them on a, o, and u. I guess I can suggest that she throw it over the second "n" so people will call her An-Ne. Oy. Such problems. Yes, I vote "pretentious."

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  4. KCosmo11:07 AM

    Neighbor:  She will always be Annie to me, even when she's taller than I am and has pretentious (totally, totally pretentious) umlauts in her name.  

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  5. Genevieve12:59 PM

    Some girls named Zoe put an umlaut over the e so people know their name doesn't rhyme with doe.  Might've been slightly necessary before the proliferation of Zoes, but now it doesn't seem so (and the Zoe in my life is umlaut-free).

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  6. Joseph J. Finn1:23 PM

    That Zoe comment, Genevieve, explains why I immediately though Anne with an umlaut would be pronounced Annie.

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  7. Adlai2:14 PM

    Or Cooper Nielsen.

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  8. Adam C.2:18 PM

    Tarantino-fave Zoë Bell is one example. Which makes me realize that I don't know if my cousin's daughter is Zoe without or Zoë with.

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  9. Eric J.2:31 PM

    Does the umlaut over the "n" in <span>Spın̈al Tap</span> change the pronunciation?

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  10. Marsha3:07 PM

    KC's N: may an umlaut be the worst offense she commits in her teenage years.

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  11. Or Bert Cooper.

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  12. bill.5:17 PM

    I learned it's not pronounced "dye a rhesus." So there's that.

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  13. bill.5:25 PM

    This paragraph bothers me:

    It’s actually a lot of trouble, these days, to get the diaeresis to stick over the vowels. The autocorrect on my word-processing program (I was just kidding about the hole punch) automatically whisks it off, and I have to go back, highlight the letter, hold down the option key while pressing the “u,” and then retype the appropriate letter. The question is: Why bother? I am not getting paid by the hour.

    These days, this kind of thing is actually not a lot of trouble if you take a couple minutes to learn your tool. Hers might be different, but with most, all you do is right-click the word and add it to the dictionary. Then for ever after, spell check and autocorrect will pick it up for you.

    More importantly, turn off autocorrect. By interrupting and questioning everything you type, rarely does it do less harm than good. And if you remember to run spell check before hitting send, it'll catch what autocorrect would, anyway.

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  14. Anonymous7:45 PM

    For all of you who referenced Zoe in your comments, my daughter's first line of "well she does it" defense was Zoe Kravitz. I'd love to know how you all are getting umlauts into your comments, by the way.

    And yes, Marsha...this should be the worst of her teenage rebellion. As KCosmo will attest...she's a pretty good kid. Next year, though, she's off to middle school. Fasten your seatbelts.

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  15. What are the specs on the machine you posted this comment from?  Superficially it seems to have behaved similarly to my cheapie Lenovo windowsXP laptop when posting on a Firefox browser.  I haven't been able to correct the error, so any common denominator could be useful.

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  16. <span>I'd love to know how you all are getting umlauts into your comments, by the way. </span>

    I'm typing this in FireFox on a Mac. Going to Edit>Special Characters, and under European Scripts>Latin I can select an "ä". However, browsers being different and commenting systems often being finicky, I find it easier to pull up a page such as HTML - Special Characters and just copy and paste as text: ä

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  17. KCosmo's neighbor.4:33 PM

    Annë  - I'm giving this a test run. I had to cut  and paste. I got  to the Special Characters (I'm on a Mac in Safari), but there's no obvious way to insert the character. It's just there for me...asking if I want to add it to favorites. So I added it to favorites, but still can seem to insert it. Oy. I have time for this nonsense because I'm home with sick Anne and sick husband. This is the only gig in town.

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  18. KCosmo's neighbor.4:33 PM

    Annë  - I'm giving this a test run. I had to cut  and paste. I got  to the Special Characters (I'm on a Mac in Safari), but there's no obvious way to insert the character. It's just there for me...asking if I want to add it to favorites. So I added it to favorites, but still can seem to insert it. Oy. I have time for this nonsense because I'm home with sick Anne and sick husband. This is the only gig in town.

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  19. Anonymous5:33 PM

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