Minnesota DOT

Thanks to some sweeping government action, umlauts have returned to highway signs for this Minnesota town.

Who says local government can't act quickly?

Just yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced that umlauts—you know, those two dots that overhang a vowel—should be restored to highway signs for Lindström, a town northeast of the Twin Cities that calls itself "America's Little Sweden." Lindström had been reduced to a mere Lindstrom on road signs after the latest Census, in line with federal guidelines on traffic lettering, according to Dayton's office. But the governor exempted "cities whose name includes special characters" via executive order.

Here's what he had to say:

“Nonsensical rules like this are exactly why people get frustrated with government,” said Governor Dayton. “Even if I have to drive to Lindström, and paint the umlauts on the city limit signs myself, I’ll do it.”

No such gubernatorial effort needed. The Minnesota Department of Transportation obliged the request this morning—at least on boundary marker signs on U.S. 8. They posted this photo as proof:

MinnDOT

That's fast. Really fast. If you were going to express how fast that is in writing, you might choose a letter that kind of looks like two eyes and a mouth opened wide from shock. Something like: Ö

The news brought joy to locals. Here's one local speaking to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“Underbart! [wonderful!]” said Sally Barott, an area resident and guide for Swedish tourists, using the Swedish she learned in a local high school. “I’m happily surprised that the governor stepped in.”

And six-term mayor Keith Carlson:

"It allows us to be a little bit more welcoming to our Swedish tourists," Carlson said.

And one local reporter worried about his ability to celebrate the news into the weekend:

And University of Minnesota lecturer Lena Norrman, speaking to the New York Times:

“These are not just two little dots,” said Ms. Norrman, a native Swede. “It’s a significant letter with its own sound. You can’t just take them away.”

(The signs weren't Lindström's only win of the day. The Times also used the "ö" in Lindström despite a policy of not publishing umlauts for "Slavic, Scandinavian and other languages that are less familiar to American editors and readers." Though, to be super technical about it, Norrman clarified that "while the term umlaut is often used, many linguists consider the “ö” in modern Swedish to be a distinct letter.")

So: Hooray for government, at least for today. Now get your dots back on the road, people.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Solutions

    ‘Fairbnb’ Wants to Be the Unproblematic Alternative to Airbnb

    The vacation rental industry is mired in claims that it harms neighborhoods and housing markets. Can a nonprofit co-op make the tourist trend a community asset?

  2. A photo of an abandoned dockless bike in Dallas in 2018.
    Transportation

    Can Car-Crazy Dallas Learn to Love Bikes?

    After a disastrous experiment with dockless bike sharing, the famously auto-centric Texas city is trying to be more friendly to bicycles and pedestrians.

  3. Tourists walk along the High Line in Manhattan, New York City
    Life

    The Beauty Premium: How Urban Beauty Affects Cities’ Economic Growth

    A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated and affluent ones.

  4. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  5. Design

    How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City

    The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab.