Å, ä and ö [40/365]

640px-Keyboard_lightIn my native tongue; Swedish, we have three letters more than in the English alphabet. They are letters of their own and not just umlauts/diacritics, so they have their place on all Swedish keyboards. Now … this isn’t just for Swedish … many other languages have those letters too, but I’ll write about the one I know something about 🙂.

Two of those ‘extra’ letters are also words of their own. Å means a little stream or creek — it’s definitely bigger than a brook. Ö is the word for island.

Since I’ve been typing all my grown-up life, I know where those letters sit on the keyboard — that will never go away, it’s in my spine. It’s really easy to install a secondary keyboard on a computer so I’ve always had the Swedish installed on all computers since I moved away. I switch back and forth all the time, with a short-cut [CMD+SPACE].

Not all people know how to install, they may not even know it’s possible, just because they’re living abroad somewhere. They might not even be interested. They type away, using a instead of ä or å, o instead of ö. Hence you can get to see the most horrendous examples in expat groups.

I remember one imbroglio in particular: There was this Swedish expat, living in some far off land, very active in a Facebook group, always pointing out stuff about his ancestors … how high standing citizens they’d been … way up in  the social hierarchy, regardless of whether it had anything to do with the subject at hand. He used the method of just typing a or o. One time he was describing his ancestry on his mother’s side [“slakten pa min mors sida” for Swedish readers], which in Swedish turned out: The slaughter on my mother’s side.

Those two little dots above the a [ä] changed ‘ancestry‘ into ‘slaughter‘. One guy in the group burst out laughing and said «Oh, I’m so sorry about that!» The first guy wasn’t present the day the sense of humour was handed out, so he got angry and defensive, saying stuff like “here I sit in ***** [insert any far off country], and I really can’t be bothered with futile stuff like å, ä and ö because I don’t have that on my computer“. Oh joy! So much fun can be had in the expat groups! 😂

24 thoughts on “Å, ä and ö [40/365]

    1. No, it doesn’t make much sense when you don’t have them. To me, they’re part of the alphabet. Sometimes you see names of music groups, or products where they’ve tried to be ‘cool’, and put in those dots. There’s a yoghurt here that they’ve named Yögo. That bugs me to no end LOL … also the band Mötley Crew.

  1. Hilarious… I believe in good typography, and I’m sure it’s not that difficult to get your letters right, even if it should be the copy-and-paste style. The Yögo case doesn’t sound that cool… We have something similar here: müsli is a loanword and it’s perfectly legitimate in this form in Czech, but some smart people decided that the consumer could be confused by the umlaut u, which isn’t in the Czech alphabet, and called their product “mysli”. It means “think” in Czech and I always cringe when I see it. Don’t know what’s wrong with good old müsli…

    1. LOL @ müsli!!! It’s all over the place — not even the Swedes have changed that one, but if they had, it would have been the same: mysli! Doesn’t mean anything, though.

      … and yes, it wouldn’t be too hard, even if you’re unable to install the keyboard — just type slaekten instead. Ae, Aa and Oe work just as well, in these cases, and everyone would understand.

        1. But then we have the Swedish Language Board … they have apparently decided that ‘mail’, as in email, should be spelled “mejl” because that’s how it’s pronounced. I just want to evaporate each time I see the word printed. They had a perfectly alright, Swedish word; ‘epost’, so why not use it. There are more like ‘mejl’ arrggghh too … not only that.

          1. The other day I saw the word “design” spelled in Czech as “dizajn” because that’s how it’s pronounced. I nearly died of embarrassment (that is, after I recognised the word as meaning “design”). I’m happy to announce that we have “e-mail” though. It must be spelled with the hyphen because “email” without the hyphen is “paint”. Of course, everyone spells it without the hyphen because people don’t know what they’re doing.

            1. LOLOL ’email’ in French is enamel. I was so confused once, because here in Canada everything is in French and English on packages ‘n stuff … I was reading on a new toothpaste … the French side was turned outwards on the shelf, and I wondered what the heck ’email’ had to do with toothpaste!

              One time [long ago], I was embarrassed enough to write to that language board, but unfortunately that was a time when I hadn’t done my own research properly. The guy who wrote back had a great sense of humour, though 🙂

            1. Yes, that’s what I think to … if it’s not okay to say email. The worst example they had there was nätmästare, but luckily that never took off LOL

  2. Interesting. I know a little Spanish, and never know how to type a vowel with an accent above it or the ‘n’ with the squiggly above, as in Pinata, you know, the hanging paper animal filled with candy that you swat to break open? It just doesn’t read the same with that squiggle over the top. 😛

    1. Yeah, the squiggle is called ’tilde’. ñ it would be in piñata. I have a Mac, but it’s placed differently, depending on what keyboard you have 😀

      1. That’s it … a tilde. Thanks. I just have a standard keyboard. Some websites give options to click on in their program, but very few.

    1. Yes, it turned out really nice 😀. We’ve talked a great deal about this [the circumflex] here at home … my husband is a [retired] linguist/anthropologist and taught for thirty+ years at ulaval. In many ways I can understand they’re upset (I haven’t followed the links yet when I’m typing this). I think I would be too. In my Swedish language, the only one they’d be able to get rid of, should they get that idea, is the Ä. It would be turned into E instead … they’re very close in pronunciation, and ä doesn’t mean anything in itself, like the two others. One town in southern Sweden, used to be Hälsingborg but has changed to Helsingborg. In company names they try to avoid these three letters nowadays, considering the online presens.

      1. I hadn’t thought of the implications to online presence, but it seems that you are right and the Internet’s influence is so strong, it is causing the evolution of languages as well.

        1. The county, where I’m from is Västernorrland. Each time the local radio station suggested a visit to their website, they said: «Go to sr.se/vasternorrland to read more». My uncle who was almost 90, got so IRKED by hearing that every day LOL … he meant that in this day and age of cutting edge technology, he thought they’d be able to produce an Ä at least 😀

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