When Trump took over, I started getting the hard copy of The New York Times and The New Yorker again. Thank heaven, I can afford it, and I felt we needed as many eyes kept on that guy as possible. Still do.

Neither one of those publications is quite what it once was, but they're still pretty darn good most of the time. Would that I could say the same for myself.

But one thing I noticed about The New Yorker lately is that swear words are now allowed, at least if they're quoting someone. As a result, it seems like I've read more "sh*t" and "f*ck" (without the asterisks) in that mag in the last year or two than ever before.

Alongside the vulgarity, though, some of the older style traditions continue, among them the use of the two dots over a vowel to separate it from the same letter immediately before it. Where you and I might write "re-elect," or even "reelect," in The New Yorker it's "reëlect." When the copy editors are awake and paying attention, anyway.

I believe the two dots over the vowel are called an umlaut. At least, that's what they are called in German, where they're a big thing. In German, you definitely need to know your schon from your schön. (When I was in school, since a Jersey City manual typewriter didn't have the ö, you could write schoen.)

Anyway, I bring this up because I think there should be a limit to how many umlauts a writer can use in a given piece. In the lead Talk of the Town article dated today, Amy Davidson Sorkin, writing about the January 6 hearings, lets loose with three umlauts in just nine paragraphs. She first zings you with "coöperate" (which seems a little pretentious, and sure, you can brush it off), then she works you a little further with "reëndorsed" (in italics no less!), and then, just seven lines later, she slathers on "preëmptively"!

I don't know about you, but that's over my limit. I'm exhausted. Maybe this is why I was not that into the music of Hüsker Dü.


  1. Umlauts in German are not the same. They change the meaning and the pronunciation. A letter with an umlaut is not the same letter as without an umlaut. This is f*cking nonsense.

  2. It’s not nonsense, it’s just pretentious.

    1. It is nonsense because umlauts are not a thing in English.

    2. Also this:

      "Most of the English-speaking world finds the diaeresis inessential. The New Yorker may be the only publication in America that uses it regularly."

      I'm definitely in favor of a hyphen to distinguish chicken coop from workers co-op, but reëlection is pretentious AND nonsensical.


    4. Ah yes, the diaeresis. Learned about that one in either Latin or Greek, I forget which one.

    5. Must have been Greek:


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