Sunday, November 21, 2010

All those dots and rings, do they really make a difference?

In Swedish, that is.  Yes they do, and when you type on an American keyboard without ä, å, and ö, your Swedish text can become both hilarious and misinterpreted.  The a, ä, å, are treated as three different letters in Swedish and they mean very different things; it is not optional to add the diacritical marks when you use these letters in my mother tongue.

Well, it wasn't optional, until computers came into the picture and we all became anglicized (especially me, after living 15 years abroad)... To type "ä" on my laptop keyboard, I have to push two buttons (Fn + Alt), and then typing 0 2 2 8 while still pushing the two original, so six keystrokes in total, and three simultaneous button strokes for each one, for one simple little Swedish letter.  On a Swedish keyboard it is just a single keystroke of course.  So, I hope my Swedish relatives and friends forgive me for often assuming that they can add the rings and dots to the o's and a's in their heads while reading my ring-free and dot-free Swedish text sent via e-mail. There are a lot of common Swedish words that use these unusual letters (such as "är" for 'is, are').

Here are some examples of Swedish words with and without the umlauts (that is what the dots and rings are called, linguistically), showing the difference those little marks make in Swedish.

vanliga = common; vänliga = friendly
halsningar = swallow (like drinking beer); hälsningar = greetings
slakt = slaughter; släkt = family (extended, including grandmothers and cousins, etc.)
kram = hug; kråm = decorations; kräm = creme, gel, paste
ta = take; tå = toe
laka = leach; läka = heal
lov = vacation; löv = leaf
al = alder; ål = eel
ost = cheese; öst = east
sal = large room; säl = seal
as = dead animal, carcass; ås = esker, long narrow hill
osa = smoke; ösa = bailing, emptying water out of something
sova = to sleep; söva = to put someone to sleep, like anesthesia
lada = barn; låda = box
bar = bar; bär = berries; bår = stretcher
bor = live; bör = ought to
borda = enter, board (especially about boats, like pirates do); börda = weight, burden
aska = ashes; åska = thunder
åra = oar; ära = honor
hora = hore; höra = hear
kar = basin; kär = in love; kår = chill, sudden wind blast
sas = was said; sås = sauce
tal = speech, number; tål = endure
gata = street; gåta = mystery

I am sure the Swedes here on the blog can come up with even more of these.

"Med vanliga halsningar till hela slakten!"  (With common 'swallowings/gulps' to the whole slaughter)
also "med vänliga hälsningar till hela släkten" (with best wishes to the whole family)!


PP said...

Can't you create a keyboard shortcut for each of the 3 ring, dot, and 2 dots?

LS said...

I don't know how to do that - if anybody knows how to make a keyboard shortcut that works in e-mail programs and online and not just Word I would love to know...