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.


An unlikely solution to the Minnesota government shutdown July 5, 2011

MY EXTENDED FAMILY likes to have fun, so we plotted this weekend to overthrow the Minnesota state government. Not to worry. We are all talk and no action.

But we definitely have ideas about who could run the state given the current legislature and governor can’t seem to handle the task of agreeing on a budget. That would be us. (Yes, the general feeling was a definite frustration with the current state government shutdown.)

Therefore, in a discussion that spiraled into hilarity, we overthrew the governor and put all of our people in place, most of us choosing to head up a state department based on our interests and experiences.

We also agreed that one of our first subversive, defiant acts would be to clamber onto the golden horses atop the state Capitol.

The golden horses and chariot atop the Minnesota State Capitol.

I’m heading up communications, a job I’m uncertain I can handle because I’ve been instructed to deliver only a positive spin on every bit of state government news.

The educators in the family were appointed to the Department of Education, the daycare provider to the Department of Health and Human Services. My eldest brother, by age default, became the new governor.

The outdoor-loving summer parks worker now manages the Department of Natural Resources. He’s always wanted to hunt alligators, so he’s bringing alligators to Minnesota.

Then the newly-appointed finance director, a family member pursuing an accounting degree, suggested that rather than return the alligators to Florida in the winter, we move them into the sewer system. We readily embraced that idea.

We didn’t debate the cost of an alligator hunting license.

But there may have been an unspoken agreement to lock current Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and the legislators in a room with a contingent of angry, jaw-snapping alligators Minnesotans.

DISCLAIMER: The above story represents my version of the family political discussion and may not be representative of all family members. However, I am the Director of Communications here at Minnesota Prairie Roots. Therefore I am free to spin this story however I wish.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling