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Thread: How Germans Feel About German Umlauts (,,)

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    Funding Member Siebenbrgerin's Avatar
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    How Germans Feel About German Umlauts (,,)



    Uber and the German umlaut


    Uber has a hard time in Germany. Not only tried some German state governments to ban the company from German streets, but Uber also faces civil disobedience and already had to pull out of three German cities.

    More shocking than the fact that the Uber service has caused so much uproar is something else:
    How come Uber has survived so long? How can a word survive that has the umlaut points scraped off?
    ber is a German preposition meaning over or above. Uber on the contrary without the umlaut points is just weird to look at. And Im not the only German that feels this way.

    Every time I see the word, I cant take my eyes off it. Do you know that feeling when something is so ugly and disgusting that you cant look away? You want to but you just cant. The word uber is terrible, outrages and appalling. Where did the points go? Uber, you cant do that to 100 Million German native speakers!

    What do you need the points for?

    What do Germans actually need the points for? The English alphabet has 26 letters. The German alphabet has 26 letters plus , , and . This is how German kids learn it in school. 26 letters plus umlauts and eszet. That might lead to the wrong impression the umlauts may not be as important when they dont even count as part of the alphabet.

    In fact, they are necessary to distinguish between singular and plural (ein Haus, zwei Huser) or present and past (lgen, log, gelogen to lie, lied, lied). Umlauts are proper sounds that have a meaning to Germans. They are letters like a,o,u or any other letter, at least when you are in Germany. They are so important to Germans, we even have them on our keyboards.



    Germanic umlaut on keyboard. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.Mller or Muller?

    Living in an English speaking country and having a surname containing an umlaut, I can tell you first hand how it feels getting your points chopped off.

    In Germany my surname is Mller. Here in Australia it is Muller, Mueller, Muler, Mular and any other combination. You name it.

    Mller is the most common name in Germany as well as in the German speaking Switzerland (Gruber In Austria). It also is an occupational name and translates to Miller.

    Once Germans cross the border to a non German speaking country, umlauts are usually transcripted to become more Qwerty compatible. The official transcriptions for countries that dont use umlauts are as follows:

    turns into ue
    turns into oe
    turns into ae
    turns into ss

    Mller is supposed to be transcribed into Mueller. Most of the time, people just chop off my umlaut points.

    We need to remove those points

    Getting the points removed really hurts my feelings. Even after pointing out my name should be spelled Mueller, it usually ends up being something else. It ends up being something else on my credit card, at the doctors or on the house bills. What my name morphs into, I usually find out the second time I use a service. It usually goes like that:

    German: Hi, how you are going? Someone rang me to let me know my new glasses are ready to get picked up.
    Sales person: Ah, yeah. Let me just check for you in the system. Whats your last name?
    German: Its Mller.
    Sales person: Ah. How do you spell that?
    German: M-u-e-l-l-e-r
    Sales person: I cant find you in our system.
    German: Maybe its M-u-l-l-e-r
    Sales person: No, thats not in our system either. I am sorry.
    German: Really? Maybe its somehow else in your system? I got called up an hour ago, the glasses were ready.
    Sales person: Na, theres nothing similar in our system. Are you sure it was someone from this shop?
    German: Yes I am very sure. I havent ordered glasses anywhere else.
    Half a century later, we found my name in the system and the glasses in the drawer. This time my name was Murloer. I hadnt had that one before. But actually, I cant complain, at least there was some kind of official umlaut transcription, just an oe.

    Leaving a country can be a problem

    Once I even had problems to leave Australia for a trip to New Zealand. They must have put me down twice in their system. It was Muller as well as Mueller. While they were figuring it out, I was standing in front of the desk at immigration, paralysed and scared. In my head I was already squatting in some corner at a police station, all alone in a cold and pitch black room. Is this going to happen to me only because of the points? Please, you can have the points, all of them. I dont need them, really. was going through my head.

    Well, I guess I just watched Australian border controls far too often. In the end they simply merged the two Mllers into one Mueller and I was good to board the plane, and definitely ready for a holiday.

    My poor friends in Germany

    Finally I can really feel with my Bulgarian friend in Germany who grew up with a Cyrillic surname and has been living with a Latin transcription of it since she moved to Germany. In Latin it still looks like some consonants randomly put together. I always use your name she told me once, Whenever I order a pizza or book a table at a restaurant, I will book it under Mller. Its much easier. I dont have to spell it, I dont even have to repeat it but I know every time, it will be easy to call up in what ever system they might have. Mller, such an easy name.

    Germans love their umlauts

    Life is much better since I have a proper ID with my transcribed name on it. People tend to believe me now. But if you still think, ah those umlauts cant be that important, look at the excitement in a Facebook forum for Germans living abroad after someone posted up some umlauts and the eszet.

    Today I am going to give you some letters, use them sparingly: .
    followed by
    more, please more
    and
    I miss my umlauts! How do you do them?
    and
    I can only do ae, ue, oe, how boring is that?!


    Some questions for German speakers and non alike:

    For German speakers:

    How important is the umlaut to you, do you take pride in it as a unique national characteristic? Do you make a point to use it as much as possible, even overseas? Is a German keyboard important to have for example?

    Does it bother you when foreigners don't use the umlaut, especially if they don't transcribe it correctly? (e.g. Muller instead of Mueller)

    If you've an umlaut in your name, has it ever happened for you to have issues (like the misspelling of your name on legal documents, plane tickets, etc.)?

    If German is a foreign language for you, do you use the umlauts? If you can't use them (international keyboard, etc.), do you use keyboard shortcuts or transcribe them like ae instead of , or do you just "chop off" the points?

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    Senior Member Mv's Avatar
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    I always use them, unless I'm utilising a device that does not support them. In the latter case I use the proper transcriptions.
    Same goes with other languages I use that utilise diacritics.
    It does bother me when I see words get raped by improper transcription. Though I do not have them in my name, my last name did get raped as everyone else's here did after Trianon to accommodate to cyrillic script.
    By the pricking of my thumbs,
    Something wicked this way comes.
    Open, locks,
    Whoever knocks.

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    Senior Member Uwe Jens Lornsen's Avatar
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    I prefer the Danish , y , , instead of the Swedish "Pickels" or "Sommersprossen" .

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    Senior Member Aelfgar's Avatar
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    If posting on a forum I will usually copy the letter from a web page and paste it. I don't like the false spellings, although I see nothing wrong in using 'ss' for .

    They are used in French as well:

    "The accent trma (dieresis or umlaut) can be on an E, I, or U. It is used when two vowels are next to each other and both must be pronounced, e.g., nave, Sal."

    And umlauts are heavy metal!



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    Senior Member Heinrich Harrer's Avatar
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    Normally I always use them (unless I use a system on which I couldn't be bothered to set the keyboard layout up), as it feels most natural and one has to type one character less as compared to ae/oe/ue.

    The physical keyboard isn't important, one can quickly switch the keyboard layout back and forth between different keyboard layouts - which then simply maps the physical keys to different characters. I often switch between the german and the us layout (I prefer the layout of the special characters of the latter for certain tasks).

    It doesn't bother me if foreigners don't use them, but if they can't type them, they should at least use ae/oe/ue instead, as that is the proper spelling and just using a/o/u is wrong and looks weird/lazy.

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    Proffessional Hickerbilly SpearBrave's Avatar
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    What do Germans actually need the points for? The English alphabet has 26 letters. The German alphabet has 26 letters plus , , and . This is how German kids learn it in school. 26 letters plus umlauts and eszet. That might lead to the wrong impression the umlauts may not be as important when they dont even count as part of the alphabet.
    The need them because it is German and not English, umlauts help with pronunciation.
    Life is like a fire hydrant- sometimes you help people put out their fires, but most of the time you just get peed on by every dog in the neighborhood.

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    Bloodhound Jger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aelfgar View Post
    ... although I see nothing wrong in using 'ss' for .
    'sz' is for
    I guess you refer to the rather recent reformation of German spelling, where indeed often was transformed into 'ss'. However, the sound of is 'sz'.
    "Nothing is more disgusting than the majority: because it consists of a few powerful predecessors, of rogues who adapt themselves, of weak who assimilate themselves, and the masses who imitate without knowing at all what they want." (Johann Wolfgang Goethe)

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    http://dochome.programbl.com/dochome/sites/default/files/image169.png



    alt + numbers above yields the desired character. I usually try to use them unless I am in some fast paced chat where, by the time I had bothered to do so, the subject would have been changed twice already and my comment made worthless.
    Most people think as they are trained to think, and most people make a majority.

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