The July 20 “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip by Stephan Pastis confused two marks used commonly in writing: the umlaut and the trema. A trema is a diacritic mark that consists of two dots and is placed over a letter, “naïve” in the strip. The trema is used to indicate that the “i” is pronounced separately.
An umlaut is a mark also used over a vowel but to indicate a different vowel quality, a different sound. In the German language, ae = ä, oe = ö and ue = ü. More than 100 years ago, the “e” was regularly placed above the vowel, and eventually, the “e” turned into the two dots for faster writing.
Does the punchline still work? You be the judge.
Ingrid Wrausmann, McLean