Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Lindström/Lindstrom’s missing umlauts April 16, 2015

A section of LIndstrom's business district.

A section of  Lindstrom’s business district.

IT’S ALL A BIT AMUSING in a Minnesota sort of way.

Some folks in Lindström, “America’s Little Sweden” located about 40 miles north of the Twin Cities, noted the omission of the umlaut over the letter “o” on newly-erected official Minnesota Department of Transportation highway signage. They weren’t happy.

The town's 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

The town’s 1908 water tower, converted to a Swedish coffee pot in 1992, sports umlauts.

Now if you’re of Swedish heritage and/or a stickler about absolutely proper linguistics, you can understand this discontent. I studied German in high school and college and am well aware of the importance of umlauts in correct pronunciation of a word. An umlaut denotes a specific sound.

A Swedish dala horse and  Yule goat posted on a business honor this community's Swedish heritage.

A dala horse and Yule goat posted on a business honor Lindstrom’s Swedish heritage.

I expect if I lived in Lindström, where the Swedish heritage is an integral part of the town’s identity and a tourism draw, I might be miffed, too, about that missing umlaut.

In MnDOT’s defense, it was simply following state law which allows only standard alphabet usage (no umlauts or such) on traffic control devices.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has since intervened, issuing an executive order on April 15 that approves addition of those two missing dots above the “o.”

In the meantime, The New York Times, the Associated Press and many other media outlets have picked up this, shall I call it, distinctly Minnesotan story.

I noticed in a television news story on the missing umlaut, that signage on the city’s center of government reads Lindstrom City Hall and Community Center rather than Lindström City Hall and Community Center. On the city’s website, the umlaut is sometimes there, sometimes not. I find that discrepancy interesting.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer.

During my visit, I was more interested in what the bakery had to offer than an awareness of umlauts.

So I wondered about other signage in this community of 4,442 which my husband and I visited briefly last October, when I wasn’t noting the absence or presence of umlauts. I checked my few photos and here’s what I found:

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

Umlauts on the Swedish coffee pot, but none on the bakery sign.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

No umlauts on the bakery bench signage either.

Interesting, huh?

Apparently no umlauts in the word "julekaka" on this bakery signage.

Inside the bakery which specializes in Swedish treats.

Umlaut or not, Lindström has garnered national attention. And that can only benefit local tourism in Lindström/Lindstrom.


More bakery treats.

More bakery treats.

Many choices at this bakery.

Many choices at this bakery.

Nothing Swedish, as far as I know, about Deutschland Meats.

Nothing Swedish about Deutschland Meats. Love that kitschy brat art atop the business.

A must-visit antique shop in Lindstrom.

The must-visit Lindstrom Antique Mall, where you will find Swedish merchandise.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note that the absence of umlauts in cutlines is not intentional, but due to my not knowing how to add them there, if that is even an option.


33 Responses to “Lindström/Lindstrom’s missing umlauts”

  1. I so miss the bakery items from growing up in MN – YUM 🙂 I have a hard time baking here due to the altitude – at 4500 plus feet elevation – it is a science to bake and at times an undertaking. Your post made me think of home and my roots – thanks – Happy Day!

  2. Thread crazy Says:

    I could go for a couple or three of those Sweedish Almond Cookies! Just thinking of the smells floating out of the bakery back home gets my mouth to watering!

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    Love this area. The bakery is wonderful.

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Audrey, I noticed the same thing you did. KAAL (Rochester) aired an interview with Lindstöm’s mayor as he stood before City Hall, and guess what? No umlats on the sign over the door.

    By the way, if anyone needs an O with an umlat, copy this ö.

  5. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Now this is my kind of town. I’m going to have to scan your blog for a list of places to visit next time I travel through Minnesota.

    • Minnesota has so much to see and such a diverse topography from prairie to forest to rolling hills to rugged wilderness. I have not seen it all and am most familiar with Southern Minnesota. I love my state, even if I sometimes complain about our long winters.

      I need to return to Lindstrom to explore more.

  6. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Oh my gosh – the sausage on the roof! And I noticed no umlats in your photo credits. 🙂

  7. Jackie Says:

    Umlauts huh? never even noticed that little punctuation and certainly didn’t know it was such a big deal! Ya learn something new every day. I’m sure my boys would know all about it as they both took German in High school. The bakery looks very yummy…. I love bakeries 🙂

  8. I’d kill to get into the antiques shop. My German cousin, Barbel, has an umlaut over the “A” but I keep forgetting how to add one on my computer. On the phone, you can just hold down the letter and a little menu pops up with various marks. That is so cool! The only Eckstrom I ever knew was in Marshall. She was beautiful, I remember, tall and blonde. Monica! That was the first name, it just popped into my head. Fun post, Audrey.

  9. hotlyspiced Says:

    I would like to have a look around that bakery too. Oh dear; the poor Swedish! I do hope the situation is resolved xx

  10. Sue Ready Says:

    What a delightful stroll through Lindstrom for blog readers looking for umlauts. To me the word sounds like a food item you’d order. Gosh with all the needs this town must have does seem silly there would be such focus on pronunciation item.

  11. How great that you had photos and a visit to share! Love this story and the attention it has gotten!

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