samedi, juin 04, 2005

everyone's a (dia)critic

I love the irony of using umlauts to make things sound "tougher" when, in fact, their presence means to pronounce the vowel "lighter" than usual.

A heavy metal umlaut is an umlaut over a letter in the name of a heavy metal band. The use of umlauts and other diacritics with a blackletter style typeface is a form of foreign branding intended to give a band's logo a Germanic or Nordic "toughness". It is a form of marketing that invokes stereotypes of boldness and strength commonly attributed to peoples such as the Vikings. The heavy metal umlaut is never referred to by the term diaeresis in this usage, nor does it affect the pronunciation of the band's name.

Heavy metal umlauts have been parodied in film and fiction. David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) in the film This Is Spinal Tap opined, "It's like a pair of eyes. You're looking at the umlaut, and it's looking at you." In 2002, Spin magazine referred to the heavy metal umlaut as "the diacritical mark of the beast".

The German word Umlaut roughly means sound change, as it is composed of um- (a prefix often used with verbs involving "change") and Laut, meaning "sound". Adding an umlaut indeed changes the pronunciation of a vowel in standard (non-Heavy-Metal) usage; the letters u and ü represent distinct sounds, as do o vs. öa vs. ä. Umlauts are used in several languages, such as Icelandic, German, Swedish, Finnish, Hungarian, and Turkish. The sounds represented by the umlauted letters in these languages are typically front vowels (front rounded vowels in the case of ü and ö). Ironically, these sounds tend to be perceived as "weaker" or "lighter" than the vowels represented by un-umlautted u, o, and a, thus failing to create the intended impression of strength and darkness.
Via Matt

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