Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Das geht nicht!

I recently read a news blurb publicizing an upcoming appearance of my favorite violinist, Joshua Bell. It began thus:

Bell, the wünderkind violinist who has been in the spotlight for much of his 39 years...

Wunderkind, literally "wonder child", does not have an umlaut. Not in German, and certainly not in English. I find it particularly irritating (cf. this previous post, and this one) when people use foreign words or expressions incorrectly, perhaps because I have little patience with those who try to be clever when they're not. "Look at me! I know what the word wunderkind means! I know that German has umlauts on vowels! I know how to make an umlaut on my computer!" I'm generally tolerant of typographical errors, and I'd be far less indignant if the reporter had left out an umlaut where one belonged. But I think it's a greater crime to get busted when you're showing off or trying to trick people (carpool cheaters who get caught with inflatable dummies in their passenger seats deserve harsher penalties than those who simply take the risk as a obviously solo driver). If you're going to use a foreign term, use it right or be ridiculed. I expect the same level of scrutiny from my readers as I sprinkle foreign expressions liberally throughout my blog.

But on the topic of superfluous accent marks, I got email today with the interesting subject line, "Hirofumi sénds yóu sóftwáre dównIóád cóúpón fór Mar 21 00:30:00 MSK 2007"...I assume the funky vowels were intended to help the message get past my spam filter. Which it did, but given that most text processing algorithms on the web seem to treat accented and unaccented letters equally, I doubt the weird subject line was what made the difference.

No comments: