In Praise Of The Umlaut!

These days the umlaut is a heavy metal motif. But it wasn’t always so.

While linguistic historians maintain that late-sixties German prog rockers Amon Düül were the first to adopt the diacritic mark, it’s undoubtedly Blue Öyster Cult that introducing it the world of mainstream rock. While sometimes credited to BOC guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier, the populist story says it was dreamed up by rock critic Richard Meltzer as he and original BOC manager Sandy Pearlman walked past a restaurant serving Blue Point oysters.  Whatever, it started something of an idiosyncratic trend.  “I pinched the idea off Blue Öyster Cult. Then Mötley Crüe pinched it off us and it goes on and on,” said Mötorhead’s Lemmy in 2011, dismissively ignoring Hüsker Dü’s contribution to the symbolic canon. Not all bands are as bold as Queensrÿche, Spın̈al Tap and…erm…Maxïmo Park, but many continue to include the umlaut in song and album titles if not the band name itself. So why the enduring popularity? Partly it’s due to the fact it’s almost the textual equivalent of flicking the devil horns, but perhaps partly it’s because as Spın̈al Tap frontman David St. Hubbins puts it: “It’s like a pair of eyes. You’re looking at the umlaut, and it’s looking at you.”

Think you know your metal umlauts? Try the quiz

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