Not every modernization project is a step of progress. Consider what has happened to the orthography of those English words where you must use double vowels, and where the second vowel has a different sound than the first. They used to be written this way:

  • reëlect
  • coöperation
  • coördination

The two-dot diaeresis indicates an umlaut, or sound shift, from one letter to the next. This is obsolete everywhere but in the pages of The New Yorker, and occasionally here.

It was generally replaced with a hyphen:

  • re-elect
  • co-operation
  • co-ordination

This use of the hyphen helps the reader navigate the umlaut effect. Alas, that practice is now deprecated, and the current orthography leads us to the confusing double vowels:

  • reelect
  • cooperation
  • coordination

This is, to my way of thinking, the worst possible development, a sort of declension brought on (no doubt) by laziness and confusion. It’s especially bad when the word is coöperation. These days, it looks like “coop”eration — something to do with chicken coops. Indeed, that’s how I read it in this interesting critique of Paul Krugman’s blather of baby-sitter coöps. I read along for quite a ways not understanding what was being talked about. You coop babysitters up? Like chickens?

Is there any hope for a return to a reasonable orthographic convention? I wonder.

 

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