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April 1990

Needing to change my flight back to Frankfurt, I started looking in the Stockholm Yellow Pages (I forget what theyíre called in Swedish, but they are yellow, just like weíre used to). "Letís see, AIR..., AER...; no wait, itís more like German (FLUG...), thatís right FLYG... But there isnít anything between FA... and FO...!"

Fortunately, the front of the book had a three page condensed index that showed me what the problem was: I was really looking at FÄ (the two dots over the A are an umlaut, in German at least) to FÖ. And Swedish "umlauted" letters donít just alphabetically follow their un-umlauted counterparts; in fact theyíre way at the end of the alphabet, after Z, then! So even FÄ came after, for example, FYRTORN, which means lighthouse (no, that wasnít in the yellow pages); i.e.:

FATOL: draft beer
...
FLYGPLATS: airport
...
FOTBOLL: football; or, when translated from English into American, soccer
...
FYRTORN
...
FÅTOLJ: armchair – you can see that you must be careful when ordering a beer in Swedish
...
FÄRGBAND: typewriter ribbon
...
FÖRBAND: bandage – likewise when replacing your typewriter ribbon

I had gotten used to checking in the German-English dictionary that the word I was looking for might have an umlaut (in German an umlauted vowel does follow its unadorned counterpart) as well as the possibility that, in a German word that I read someplace, a UE might really be an Ü, since the printing method might not have a separate umlauted set of characters (Ü does sound like UE; similarly for Ä and Ö.) (Actually, that was the original way umlauted vowels were written, which evolved to putting a small e over the vowel. Eventually, scribes got tired of writing the complete e and used two small lines, then two dots.)

Iím beginning to appreciate the problem that people who donít spell very well have in trying to look up the correct spelling of a word that they donít know how to spell!

© Copyright 2000 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved

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