Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This post is brought to you by the letter K and the umlaut

When I told my mother Matt Fraction had used my name as the inspiration for a villain 's name she wanted to know why it could not have been a hero. I told her it was because spelling words with a "k" where you could use a "c" means EVIL for two reasons. First, Germany and World War Two: Germans spell cognates with "k"s instead of "c"s. I have to admit there does seem to be something slightly sinister about "Sokrates," and the Jewish Kirby surely felt this when he named the home of Dark Side "Apokolips" -- a word that carries bad connotations even without the K. The second reason is the Ku Klux Klan (and I will not tell you how late in life I discovered that this was not spelled "Klu Klux Klan" -- about a week after I discovered that "Juke-box" is not spelled "Jute-Box" [EDIT: backwards in the original post]: the first time I think I ever saw the word written down was in V For Vendetta of all things). Fraction's "Dokkkor" is surely bad news, and you do not need a context to tell you that anyone spelling "America" as "Amerikkka" is not writing an encomium.

The real proof for my mother that Doctor Klock has to be a villain -- a camp one to be sure, but still - came from the adult swim metal-parody/tribute cartoon Metalocalypse (not Metalokalypse, which is surely going to far). The metal band around which the show revolves is called Dethklok -- because Death-Clock lacks that vaguely Tough-German sounding edge that most Metal bands get by putting nonsensical umlauts over vowels. Spinal Tap is a great example of the pointless umlaut -- hilariously jacking up the stupidity of metal's appropriation of the mark by placing it over a consonant.

Sidenote One: dieresis

Because a lot of people do not know this: the umlaut is a guide to how to pronounce a vowel and is not an English mark; we do have a rarely used mark in English that looks just like an umlaut, but it is called a dieresis, and is used to tell you that two uncomfortably close vowels are meant to be pronounced separately: without the dieresis over the second "o" "coop" is a place to keep birds, rather than an apartment complex where people own their own apartments, as Omar from the Wire will tell you. The New Yorker is the only publication I can think of that still includes the dieresis as part of their style guide.

Sidenote 2: Klockblocked

The inspiration for this post was discovering that a recent Metalocalypse episode is called "Klokblocked" -- which the AV Club reviewer wonderfully misspelled "Klockblocked." From here on out this is my new favorite expression, for obvious reasons, and I will continue to think on ways to work it into everyday conversation and blog comments.


Darius Kazemi said...

I am a big fan of dieresis. One question that just occurred to me: would you use dieresis in a situation with two different vowels? For example, coïncidence? (Or for that matter, diëresis?)

Geoff Klock said...

You do use it for that -- as in the word naive, to which my Word program automatically adds the dieresis. It seems unevenly applied though, as I have seen naive with dieresis lots of time but not so much coincidence.

scott91777 said...


Yeah, like many features of the English language (we are much less stubborn about allowing our language, both spoken and written, to evolve and mutate than other languages) the diaresis (that's what that thing is called)is being either replaced witha hyphen (co-op) or allowed to disapear completely as the separation of sounds is understood (naive).
It's all part of our plan to make English that more difficult to learn so that we can be all the more outraged when other cultures do not speak it :)


Really? It's 'Jute-box'... I thought it was 'Juke-box' and that Alan Moore's spelling it 'Jutebox' was one of those silly things that British people do like spelling color with a 'u'


Your mom watches Metalocalypse? AND she understands it well enought for you to make a point with it? Your mom is awesome.

Ping33 said...

I blame the Nazis

they elevated normal villainy to cartoon supervillainy

Holly Kim said...

Well, the band's name was going to be Deathclock, but that was copyrighted. So Brendon and Tommy boiled it down to Dethklok.

Kenney said...

"I discovered that "Jute-box" is not spelled "Juke-Box""

Get the fuck out of here! I think you just blew my mind...and made me feel like an idiot at the same time.

Geoff Klock said...

ACK -- no I got the Juke box / jute box thing backwards. Sorry.

Darius Kazemi said...

Whew. I was trying to do some background research on jute vs juke and wasn't coming up with much other than that "jute box" has about 5 orders of magnitude fewer hits than "juke box" on Google.

Kelly Sue said...

I also thought it was jute box (until Juke Box Hero came out) and Klu Klux Klan.

I see you those and raise you a standing "obation."

Timothy Callahan said...

I always thought it was Jupe-Box

sara d. reiss said...

co-op uses that handy device, the hyphen, while coordinate should use dieresis, but only does so in the New Yorker.

The hyphen is an interesting thing. I remember a teacher, I think a high school one, tho it could've easily been an elementary school one or a college professor at this point, discussing how and when a hyphen should be used and that after a hyphenated word becomes familiar in daily use, it will lose its hyphen and become one word. So a hyphen is basically a training wheel to a new word. (this of course, is not related to using the hyphen when a typed word is divided up at the end of one line to the beginning of another)

but as for diereisis, which I didn't know had a name until now even tho we live together, is only summat I've come across in my New York mags and no-where else. ;-p

scott91777 said...

That's right Sara... the evolution is two words, hyphenate then compound word.

At one point last semester I had a discussion which of those 'demon spawn' was (or demon-spawn/demonspawn).

I think we decided it depended on the usage... I totally forgot which situations warrant which though.

Oh, and, Sara, good luck with the whole Klockblocked thing since I'm sure you'll be bearing the brunt of that one :)

James said...

"I will not tell you how late in life I discovered that this was not spelled "Klu Klux Klan""

I'll tell you how late it was when I found out: JUST NOW. Yikes.