friday afternoon links – gratuitous umlaut edition



Heavy metal uniquely combines a horror aesthetic with a heightened taste for idiosyncratic spelling. Much orthographic controversy in metal revolves around the umlaut (e.g., ö):

  • The first group to use the dreaded umlaut was German prog rock band Amon Düül back in 1967. Düül is the name of a character from a Turkish novel. The first gratuitous umlaut was Blue Öyster Cult in 1970. See Will Farrell mock them in this video. Key phrase:“More cowbell.”
  • The gratuitous umlaut is a topic of discussion among metal aficionados who created the “heavy metal umlaut” wiki page to parse out legitimate and illegitimate umlauts.
  • Legitimate umlauts: Icelandic diva Björk, German rock band Die Ärzte, Rhode Island’s Swedish “Viking Metal” band Vänhørwick.
  • Gratuitous umlauts: Mötley Crüe (neither is needed), Frank Zappa’s 1996 album Läther, Canadian thrash band Infernäl Mäjesty.
  • The gratuitous umlaut has even spread to non-Germanic/Nordic languages where there is no need for them, such as Spanish band Mägo de Oz (Wizard of Oz). A satirical metal band uses the umlaut over a consonant: This Is Spin̈al Tap. Band leader Michael St. Hubbins says: “It’s like a pair of eyes. You’re looking at the umlaut, and it’s looking at you.”

Accoding to the wiki page, Spin magazine snarkily noted that the metal umlaut was the “diacritical mark of the beast.”


Written by fabiorojas

March 30, 2007 at 4:03 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I find the ‘umlaut’ conception a real convincing concept. Röyksopp from Norway is another one.



    March 30, 2007 at 10:08 pm

  2. I vote for changing the blog’s name to ö



    March 30, 2007 at 10:32 pm

  3. Some Punk (by no means not all) used a good bit of Nazi imagery. The intention often seemed more iconoclastic than genuinely political — though Germany has had problems with some rather popular Nazi Punk groups. Could the umlauts have something to do with allusions to the German language and iconoclastic Nazi allusions?


    William Osborne

    March 31, 2007 at 7:00 am

  4. The umlaut in Läther isn’t gratuitous, as it changes the pronunciation (from “lather” to “leather”).


    ben wolfson

    March 31, 2007 at 5:09 pm

  5. Ben: I think the dispute over Läther is that in English, the umlaut is used principally for consecutive vowels (e.g., coöperation). Zappa was trying to play off the English word for leather, which needs no umlauts according to standard orthography.

    Omar: You should change your name of ömär lizärdö, and then start your own band.


    Fabio Rojas

    March 31, 2007 at 11:32 pm

  6. There is no umlaut in “coöperation”. That mark over the second “o” is a diaeresis. It happens to look exactly like an umlaut, but is not one.


    ben wolfson

    March 31, 2007 at 11:36 pm

  7. Ben, you’ve just taken it to “11” on this blog.


    Fabio Rojas

    March 31, 2007 at 11:42 pm

  8. […] a comment » To balance out Fabio’s gratuitious (and ugly) umlaut post — here’s Björk interviewing Arvo Pärt, the minimalist […]


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