‘Put the umlauts back on the Lindström sign,’ Dayton demands

MinnPost illustration by Tom Nehil

Stop the nonsense, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday, as he ordered state Transportation officials to put the ö back in the Lindström highway signs.

The Star Tribune ran a story this week about unhappiness in the Swedish enclave when residents noticed the umlauts were missing in updated city limits signs.

The o with an umlaut is a critical part of the Swedish alphabet, one of three vowels that don’t appear in English. Thus the pronunciation of the town is changed without the letter. And lots of Swedish tourists visit the city, north of the Twin Cities near Chisago Lakes.

The signs had included the ö in Lindström until recently, when state officials replaced them and left off the umlaut because of a new federal “Standard Alphabets for Traffic Control Devices.”

In ordering the umlauts reinstated, Dayton said:

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


You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/15/2015 - 09:51 pm.

    Ya Know….

    I’ve seen at least 4 stories about this and NOT ONE explained how the umlaut actually changes the pronunciation, or the meaning of the word. As far as I can tell everyone pronounces it the same with or with the dots. You’d think with people making such a big deal about this, reporters would explain the basic element of the story.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 04/16/2015 - 08:26 am.

      Check out the Star Tribune story

      If you click the link to the Star Tribune story, that’ve got audio of a Swede explaining (and pronouncing) the difference.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2015 - 08:53 am.

        Thanks Tom but…

        I have to point out that the umlaut doesn’t actually change our pronunciation. In English “Lindstrom” is pronounced: “Lindstrum”, which sounds identical to the Swedish pronunciation of “Lindstrom” with an umlaut. Don’t get me wrong, I think they should have their dots if they want them, it’s their tea pot.

        • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 04/16/2015 - 09:20 am.

          No expert

          Well, I’m no expert in Swedish (I do have a couple of semesters at the American Swedish Institute under my belt; highly recommended) but I think the main issue is spelling, not pronunciation. In Swedish, ö is a different vowel from o, so spelling Lindström as Lindstrom is spelling it wrong. Think of this: an English speaker would probably pronounce St. Paul the same as St. Pahl or maybe even St. Paal, but only the first is the right spelling for Minnesota’s capital. 

Leave a Reply