The diaeresis

30 Apr


The diaeresis, or a black bear with pink eye looking in your window at night.

Remember that time I had a blog? Ah, good times. Well, get ready, because BLAM – here’s my return to that very same blog!

And this post is about the diaeresis – AKA the thing that looks like this: ¨. In English, it’s most commonly seen in the word naïve (when properly written), and in names, such as Brontë, as in the Brontë sisters. It has a Greek background and means “to divide”.

Basically, the diaeresis is used to indicate that the adjoining letters should be pronounced as two separate sounds. Naïve is the best example, as it shows how the two vowels are used as two syllables.

Fun fact 1: Diaeresis is pronounced “die heiresses”.

Fun fact 2: The New Yorker still uses the diaeresis on the words coöperate and reënter. The alternatives are, of course, to go without (cooperate, reelect) or to hyphenate (co-operate, re-elect), but decades ago they chose the diaeresis, and goddamn it, they’re sticking with it.

Fun fact 3: It’s really hard to write naïve without Microsoft Word changing it to naive. You can make it by pressing the option key + U on a Mac. I’m not sure about PCs though. Frankly, just buy a Mac.


4 Responses to “The diaeresis”

  1. Mel May 1, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Yeah! You’re back. Between you and Vampire Weekend my grammar is sure to improve out of sight. Xx

  2. ret56fe May 1, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Black bear with pink eyes? I thought it was Ned Kelly after a night on the tiles. Or possibly a domino. But now I’m freaking out about pink-eyed black bears reëntering the house…

  3. Wil May 1, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Well there you go. Writing and working in magazines I should have known that, but I didn’t. Thanks!

  4. whingingpommymummy May 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Glad you are back and at the risk of being a grammar geek, can i ask if you know if it’s related to the German umlaut?

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