In some song titles there is the letter 'ü', which isn't a letter in the English alphabet, but in the German. What does it mean? Is it some sort of emphasis?

An example for such a song title would be 'Yoü And I' by Lady Gaga or 'Where Are Ü Now?' by Justin Bieber.

  • 9
    Just a joke. Doesn't have any meaning. And not just the ü either; see discogs.com/Zee-Identity/master/43680. Let's hope these people never find out about Unicode.
    – Mr Lister
    Oct 1 '16 at 7:13
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    @BaardKopperud What sound do you mean by y? I think most readers will read it as [i:], which is not, to my ear at least, the German pronunciation. If you do mean the correct [y], better use IPA. The [y] is hard to compare to any English vowel, though wikipedia likens it to the oo in Australian/New Zealand English goose.
    – oerkelens
    Oct 1 '16 at 13:23
  • 3
    We seem to do quite a bit of this sort of thing in English, like using capital sigmas for capital Es to make words look Greek. Ever see the graphics and titles for the film "MY BIG FAT GRSSK WEDDING"?
    – BoldBen
    Oct 1 '16 at 22:09
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    @Angst: using ae, oe, ue for ä, ö, ü is acceptable when there's a technical reason why you can't use umlauts; if possible, umlauts are preferred. For example, in international sports competitions where participants' names are restricted to ascii, the name Müller should be written as Mueller, not Muller, while in French, accented characters just lose their accent. Another notable example is German crossword puzzles, they always use ae, oe, ue instead of umlauts. Oct 2 '16 at 2:47
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    Thanks @GuntramBlohm, I sometimes have to write ae ue etc when working remotely on computer and unsure of nationality of my keyboard. so helpful to know how this is seen by native German speakers
    – Angst
    Oct 2 '16 at 10:02

It’s the metal umlaut invading other genres of music.

Briefly, in the seventies, metal bands started adding diereses (and other diacritical marks) to their names or song titles to look mean, German, soft, cool or whatever (the reasons are not always known and vary from band to band). This phenomenon was named metal umlaut. While it was never limited to metal, it now appears to have invaded pop.

Note that two dots (dieresis) can also be used in English to indicate that two vowels following each other are not a diphthong (e.g., in reüse), but this is rarely done nowadays.

  • 3
    Another example of this silliness is Häägen-Dazs ice-cream (or however they do spell it), which appears to be just meant to con people into finding it cooler.
    – PJTraill
    Oct 2 '16 at 17:09

The double-dot-over can be either an umlaut or a diaresis. The umlaut signifies a different (often longer) vowel in German. The diaresis signifies that a vowel begins a new syllable.

As an umlaut, it will like other accents, only appear on loanwords such as Götterdämmerung or Café.

However as a diaresis it is perfectly permissible in English, in words such as naïve (pronounced na-yeve, not nave) or coöperate (pronounced as co-operate not cooper-rate).

Note that in English a vowel with a diaresis is not considered a separate letter from its unmodified form.

  • 7
    This isn't the main point of your answer, but I don't know of any case where an umlaut signifies a longer vowel in German. In general, it indicates a "front" vowel.
    – herisson
    Oct 1 '16 at 14:57
  • Naïve and cooperation are loan words too. ;-) Oct 2 '16 at 12:33
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    I am sorry to downvote your answer which I think is all true but does not answer the question, in which these marks are not about pronunciation but are an evil borrowing of the metal umlaut as explained by @Wrzlprmft
    – Spike0xff
    Oct 2 '16 at 15:43
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    I agree with @Spike0xff. That said, it is very useful background information for what the trema normally means in English. Updating the answer to make this explicit ("This does not apply to your song title examples, but the normal usage of this diacritic is…") would be a win: we keep the useful information in your answer, while still addressing the question that was asked.
    – M. Justin
    Nov 19 '20 at 7:05

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