Dear New Yorker,
English doesn’t contain diacritical marks; in many ways, the Second World War II was a battle against tildas and macrons and that little turkey-neck that hangs under the “c” in “facade.” The inheritors of the language of the Angles and the Saxons are by nature a democratic people, and we do not elevate certain letters above others by means of crowning.
“Hey, look at me,” says Û. “I’ve got a little hat. I must be important.”
And then Û begins a reign of terror. America has never had a king, New Yorker, and it is because we do not give our letters hats.
The mark in question is called a diaeresis, not–as is commonly believed– an umlaut. (Set theory time: if the word “umlaut” contained an umlaut, then the word could never be defined.) A writer named Mary Norris explains this better than I do, but what the useless little fucker does is not change the pronunciation of the letter beneath it, but indicate that the emphasis is on the second vowel in a pair. The “i” would get one in “naive.”
This leads to the primary problem, New Yorker: diacritical marks are there to make writing easier to read, whereas your sad devotion to that ancient typographical choice makes it more difficult. Every time I come upon “coöperation,” my brain spazzes out for half-a-second, a full second if the article is about Angela Merkel. Perhaps, I think, there is a German word that looks remarkably like our own “cooperation.” Maybe, I further muse, I have oozed into a timeline in which the Axis won the war and now umlauts are mandated. And, yes, I know it’s not an umlaut, but a diaeresis, but I did not know that an hour ago and I will forget it by midnight. I enjoyed far too much Hair Metal in my youth to see those dots as anything other than an umlaut.
Do you think us saps, New Yorker? “Ooh, we’re the New Yooooooorker. The guy from Princess Bride‘s dad used to work here.” Is that it? Do you think that we need help pronouncing the word “cooperate,” New Yorker? Do you think that–sans diaeresis–all of us unbathed and unlettered mongrels out here in teeveeland would bulge our eyes out at the word and call in our wives to help?
“Cooper-ate? What the fuck does that mean?”
“Oh, honey, you know: cooper-ate. It means ‘to make a barrel.'”
“What they fuck is that? I can’t even pronounce it.”
“Yeah. N-a-i-v-e. Is that even English?”
“Oh, I know. Na’i’ve. They were an Indian tribe.”
“The one that cries when you litter?”
“I think so.”
And then we eat fast food and vote against our own economic interests, right, New Yorker? Cooperation. Reelection. Naive. Dais. None of these are words anyone needs help with. Take your goddamned training wheels off my vowels, New Yorker.
I trust this letter will be acted upon in all due haste, and I congratulate you on your coverage of the Harvey Weïnsteïn story.
Love and other indoors sports,
Thoughts on the Dead