Mötley Crüe's Hollywood Walk of Fame star, which shows the two metal umlauts used in the band's name
Mötley Crüe's Hollywood Walk of Fame star, which shows the two metal umlauts used in the band's name

A metal umlaut is a diacritic that is sometimes used gratuitously or decoratively over letters in the names of hard rock or heavy metal bands—for example, those of Blue Öyster Cult, Queensrÿche, Motörhead, the Accüsed, Mötley Crüe and the parody band Spın̈al Tap , Green Jellÿ

Usage

Among English speakers, the use of umlaut marks and other diacritics with a blackletter typeface is a form of foreign branding which has been attributed to a desire for a "gothic horror" feel.[1] The metal umlaut is not generally intended to affect the pronunciation of the band's name, unlike the umlaut in German (where the letters u and ü represent distinct vowels) and the Scandinavian languages (where å, ä and a, ö/ø and o are distinct letters).

History

The first gratuitous use of the umlaut in the name of a hard rock or metal band appears to have been by Blue Öyster Cult in 1970. Blue Öyster Cult's website states it was added by guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier,[2] but rock critic Richard Meltzer claims to have suggested it to their producer and manager Sandy Pearlman just after Pearlman came up with the name: "I said, 'How about an umlaut over the O?' Metal had a Wagnerian aspect anyway."[3]

Reactions

Speakers of languages which use an umlaut to designate a pronunciation change may understand the intended effect, but perceive the result differently. When Mötley Crüe visited Germany, singer Vince Neil said the band couldn't figure out why "the crowds were chanting, 'Mutley Cruh! Mutley Cruh!'"[4]

These decorative umlauts have been parodied in film and fiction; in an interview about the mockumentary film This Is Spın̈al Tap, fictional rocker David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) says, "It's like a pair of eyes. You're looking at the umlaut, and it's looking at you."[5] The heavy metal parody band Gwar parodied the use of metal umlauts in a lyric insert included with its first record, stylizing the song names with gratuitous diacritics.[6] In 1997, the satirical newspaper The Onion published an article titled "Ünited Stätes Toughens Image With Umlauts."[7]

Band or album name examples

English-speaking countries

Other countries

Other examples

Video games

Other

See also

References

  1. ^ Garofalo, Rebee (1997). Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA. Allyn & Bacon. p. 292. ISBN 0-205-13703-2. Some groups, for example Blue Öyster Cult and Motörhead, added gratuitous umlauts to their names to conjure up a more generic gothic horror, a practice that continued into the 1980s with Mötley Crüe and others.
  2. ^ "BÖC Retrospectively: Stalk Forrest Group 1969–1970". blueoystercult.com. Retrieved September 12, 2006.
  3. ^ Lisa Gidley (2000). "Hell Holes: Spin̈al Tap's main man explains the importance of the umlaut". CMJ. Retrieved September 12, 2006.
  4. ^ Eric Spitznagel (November 27, 2009). "Motley Crue's Vince Neil is Finally Bored With Boobs". Vanity Fair.
  5. ^ Inc, CMJ Network (Oct 29, 2000). "CMJ New Music Monthly". CMJ Network, Inc. Retrieved Oct 29, 2020 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Gwar - Hell-O!". Discogs.
  7. ^ "Ünited Stätes Toughens Image With Umlauts". The Onion. 30 April 1997.