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What do you think about diaeresis?

  1. I use it regularly, don't you?

    12.5%
  2. I know about it, but don't use it.

    43.8%
  3. This is the first I've heard of it, but it sounds like a cool idea.

    12.5%
  4. This is the first I've heard of it, and it looks ridiculous.

    6.3%
  5. I had that really bad one time, never going back to that taco stand again.

    25.0%
  1. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    Diaeresis: Does anyone actually use this?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Iain Aschendale, Nov 2, 2017.

    As far as I can tell, the only source using "diaeresis" is The New Yorker. It's this weird little umlaut thing that I can't reproduce using this keyboard/OS, apparently to let people unfamiliar with familiar words know when a new syllable starts.

    Absent the ability to type it, I'll have to let the article explain it.

    The Curse of the Diaeresis

    Have you seen it before? Would you use it?
     
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  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Interesting! No, I haven't seen this before, except in words like naive where you might except to find one (though I think that's going out of fashion...)

    I quite like the idea, especially since many style guides now will eschew hyphens in words like cooperate, which might look more modern but makes the word more difficult to read. But since nobody knows about it (I wouldn't have had a clue without reading your article) it will just lead to more confusion. I guess it's a chicken-and-egg thing - no type of punctuation is actually useful to readers unless they know what it signifies, but they won't learn what it signifies until it's widely used...
     
  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I had a bad case of diaresis recently, but I put that down to eating a dodgy prawn umlaut ;)
     
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  4. Bjørnar Munkerud

    Bjørnar Munkerud Senior Member

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    Some names use them. And fantasy writers are sometimes fond of them. I'm personally quite annoyed at them, because using them seems to be pretentious and to omit them ignorant.

    The word "naïve" works quite well, you just have to learn it. It's a bit unnecessary, but it does clarify the pronunciation and makes sense from a linguistic and historical perspective. Names such as Zoë are not so practical, as you'll have to remember which people spell their names in what ways. Sometimes it even seems the person with the name doesn't even care to add the diaeresis. And then there's the whole debacle of people not bothering to find out how to type them on their phones and computers, and the frequent lack of support from them.

    My own given name contains the letter "Ø". It's a completely legitimate letter in multiple languages, but I'm frequently surprised and annoyed at how few websites support it, many of which are clearly global in their outreach. It's weird having to misspell one's own name to have it accepted as correct, especially when you're entering your billing address or suchlike and it feels somehow more serious and important. I don't imagine the Noëlles of the world have it that much easier. Their names are going to be butchered left and right even by their own compatriots, on paper and online alike.
     
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  5. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    I use it for the few English words like "naïve" that permit it, and I totally would use it more if I couldn't see my future consisting mostly of people asking why I'm putting random dots over words.
     
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  6. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I subscribe to the New Yorker, so I see it all the time. I don't use it, though - it seems like a needless affectation. My prose isn't usually pompous enough to justify it. ;)
     
  7. Quanta

    Quanta Member Supporter

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    In french, diaresis aren't exactly used when two vowels pronounce separately, as in cooperation, but rather when the two vowels would otherwise make a single sound (diphthong?).
    mais (but) one syllable word
    maïs (corn) two syllable word
    I have no trouble finding them on my keyboard using Canadian Multilingual Standard, though I often mistype them with their neighbour ç, which is apparently another pretentious form of punctuation.
    In French, I don't think they're optional, but when writing in English, I would leave them out.
    That's my youngest daughter. Her name gets butchered either way. (I should have guessed, having given an hyphenated name to my oldest, which gets decapitated all the time!)
     
  8. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Member

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    I thought the use of diaeresis was no longer practiced in English, am I wrong?
     
  9. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    The diaeresis is not the same as the umlaut. It refers not to a variation in the sound of the vowel, but indicates that the vowel is separate. For example, coordinate could be written coördinate. That is generally not done anymore, but consider zoölogy which is not zoo-logy and people tend to say zoo-ology which is one o too many.

    Yea, and “cooperate” is what you do when building barrels, and “coöperate” is when someone helps you.

    My name (properly) contains a ‘ł’ character.
    for sure! Or worse yet, accepts it without complaint when signing up, but does funny things after that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017
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  10. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    I think of its use in English (naive, cooperate) as somewhat old fashioned. Not sure why I think that but my impression is that I usually see it in older editions of things. Anyway, if you're going for "old fashioned" then sure, why not use it.

    Of course, that's only with regards to its use in English. If you're, say, making up a word in a fantasy language...

    Honestly, I would rather see more of these than just more words with four apostrophes, "Nak'zul'far'n" or whatever. I think Anglophone fantasy writers don't use enough different diacritics in general, probably because English itself doesn't have many. But it's such an easy and still-not-overused way to make a word seem more exotic/foreign...give me a breve or even just an accent acute any day.
     
  11. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    I used to be way into using accent marks (baby fantasy writer - whatta ya gonna do), but in reality most readers aren't going to be able to parse them correctly, so eventually I figured - why bother? I might as well write in IPA. I ended up dropping the umlaut from a character's name just because it was a pain to type, and that's the only one I have any faith in people being able to read.
     
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  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    I think it's a cool holdover from another language, but chances of me using it are slim. I guess it's like the umlaut or the cedilla, where you use it on the appropriate loaner word to avoid problems there, but not something we should start applying to common writing.

    On the rare occasion it comes up in conversation I generally pronounce zoology or zoological something like zlolligy of zillogical and people seem to understand me just fine and I don't think adding a couple of dots are going to do much to affect any of that.
     
  13. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    In English we are used to letters having different sounds rather than a single consistent sound, so using an umlaut should not be necessary except to distinguish between otherwise identical words. I’m assuming you did mean umlaut here, since the thread is on diaeresis.

    As for typing, use a autocorrect or autocomplete entry, or just do a global search&replace when you are getting into copy edit phase.
     
  14. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    firë - this is telling me that fire is being pronounced in two syllables, not one. For Prose this not important, for Metrical writing, it has its purposes; that being said, I rarely see it used even then.

    -OJB
     
  15. Bjørnar Munkerud

    Bjørnar Munkerud Senior Member

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    While English-speakers are familiar with the idea of words and word combinations having different pronunciations in different words, there's also something to be said for lending a helping hand to guide the reader into how a word should be pronounced. While "naive" and "naïve" are both are and are supposed to be pronounced "naw-eve", the former is written in a way that suggests "neyv" as a more probable pronunciation. The diereses in the latter version, however, indicates a pronunciation where the "a" and "i" are treated separately. "Naive" is not less English; But it is less clear. If that clarity is worth it, however, is a pragmatic decision the writer has to make.
     
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  16. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    No, it’s like Bill Nye had a daughter named Eve, and you stated it last-name first. In IPA, /naɪʹ iv/.

    I agree it’s good the be clearer when possible. I always spell it with the mark, and have an autocorrect rule set up in the word processor to facilitate that. But if I resume updating my résumé I can’t automate it.
     
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  17. Sir Douglas

    Sir Douglas Member Supporter

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    Diaeresis can distract or mystify. Let Captain Context do his job.
     
  18. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Argh. A big part of me doesn't like this thinking. Sure, it's pragmatic, but it leads to the dumbing-down of the public - it's the kind of argument people use when they tell me I should never use semicolons. "People don't know what it means, so don't use it!" is the argument. The answer is not to not use it; the answer is to teach people what it means so that they have another tool in the toolbox.
     
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  19. Sir Douglas

    Sir Douglas Member Supporter

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    It's okay to use diaeresis and semicolons. I associate diaeresis with diacritical marks in foreign languages. I see semicolons as end-of-statement markers for various computer languages.
     
  20. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I grew up coding in C. I've used about four and a half bazillion semicolons in software development. I'm actually damn glad I don't code for a living any more - my semicolons are reserved for literature! :p
     
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  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Unworthy in the eyes of the LORD Contributor

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    It's interesting to see so many uses that slipped right past my attention. The only reason I noticed was The New Yorker was using them in ways that, quite frankly, I consider idiotic, like "coöperate to reëlect" from the article I cited. I first thought that there was a font coding problem (Japanese-based OS sometimes turns up weird results even when it's supposedly set to English).
     
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  22. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    Maybe they were fighting over “re-elect” (AP style) and “reelect” (Chicago) and decided that the true meaning of compromise was to use a solution that neither side liked.

    It makes sense that words that start out with hyphens, when it’s been around long enough to drop the hyphen (like email) and that causes two consecutive vowels, to use a diaeresis as the next step. After a while, that becomes optional, but always correct if you need to be clear, as with coordinate. Nobody says /kuːdɪneɪt/ so we don’t need to remind them that the o’s don’t go together (unlike zoology, which most people say /zuː ɒlədʒi/ which takes the two o’s as a unit and then re-uses the second one again (underlined)).

    You asked “does anybody do that?” but you may have inspired more people to start doing it!
     
  23. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The New Yorker is the most egregious user if the diaeresis that I know of.
     
  24. Sir Douglas

    Sir Douglas Member Supporter

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    How do you generate unicode characters for the International Phonetic Alphabet?
     
  25. Spacer

    Spacer Active Member

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    If you type them a lot, install a fancy keyboard program. Some years ago, I used Keyman, and developed a smart key map for the purpose. (Looks like it’s easily available now. “Keyman Desktop will automatically configure your computer to work with IPA”)

    However, you can use the normal keymap switching features of your OS and include an IPA keyboard in the mix. I see this for Windows now, too. On Android I use Multiling O Keyboard which allows for extensive customization of key layout and maps, and I’ve completely redone the maps it comes with.

    For chars I use a lot, I have a customized solution using the X-keys product.

    For general finding and picking of characters, I use BabelMap (free). You could also turn to the “IPA Extensions” block in the Windows char map applet, but I find it quite lacking.

    What you can do, you know, is simply copy/paste from somewhere else, such as Wikipedia or a dictionary page. You can make a handy txt file with chars you need (e.g. an IPA legend), and copy from that.
     
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