Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nördkaffe

Have you heard of "Metal Umlauts", perhaps? When a heavy-metal band wants a name that sounds exotic, gothic and vaguely menacing they will sometimes add an umlaut ("¨" - the two dots in "ä", "ö", "ü" and so on) to a vowel or two. Think "Motörhead", for instance. This can backfire; British metal band "Trojan" famously added an umlaut to their name to become "Tröjan". This means "the shirt" in Swedish, and doesn't really evoke the air of menace the band was aiming for - though I guess it did make for some deliciously self-referential concert t-shirts.

Nördkaffe
Nerd Coffee, Umeda.


There's a recent café in the Umeda underground that's afflicted with a similar case of Umlautitis. It has a Scandinavian theme - the furniture and decorations are Nordic minimalist, and there was even a long text explaining the Swedish tradition of "fika" - an extended coffee break - in passable but "interesting" Swedish and in Japanese. It looks like a very pleasant coffee shop, and I've been meaning to stop by. The name is "Nördkaffe".

Perhaps the owner has lived in Sweden and got inspired to do a Swedish-style café back in Osaka. I think the real name is "Nordkaffe" ("Nordic coffee"), and indeed, the Japanese transcription uses the "nordkafe" (ノードカフェ) pronunciation. The umlaut (and the second "f") is only there to give the name an exotic touch. But as with "Tröjan", this changes the meaning: "Nördkaffe" means "Nerd Coffee" or オタクカフェ. Unlikely to be quite what the owner intended, of course, but the name is memorable and the place looks very nice. We really should stop by next time.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some languages lack some vowel letters to match the vowel sounds. Some languages lack some vowel sounds. Yawn... Time for a kohi burekku :P

Mashu said...

Fantastic! I always wish I knew the impact those two little dots made whenever people arbitrarily toss them into words.

I've had coffee there a couple times. As you mentioned, the furniture and design is really comfortable and appealing. If I recall the prices were fine and coffee good as well. I almost forgot I was deep beneath the ground! Generally I like a cafe above the earth's surface, but it was a worthwhile exception. Not in Umeda too much these days, though.

Janne Morén said...

Metal Umlauts can be pretty entertaining to scandinavians as you may imagine.

I don't get to Umeda a lot either; I don't have much real off time between work and studying, and most stuff I want or need is available right here in Namba. It doesn't help that the Umeda underground is almost as confusing Tokyo Central either. But I have to get to that coffee shop again soon.

RMilner said...

In London there is a coffee shop chain called Cafe Nero. Because of the square shape of the O in the font they use, their sign looks like Cafe Nerd.

katiesjapanfiles said...

Depending on how anal the barista is, you could well get nerdy coffee. Or if they attempt to explain weak nuclear force in the milk foam...that would be zer nerdlich. (using made up German is also a popular hip thing, I've heard)

Janne Morén said...

"...that would be zer nerdlich. "

I think a real language nerd would insist on "zehr Nördlich" ^_^

Petra said...

sehr

Janne Morén said...

Petimeter :)

Fast var annars skulle du ha ett "z"? Det blir ju inte tillräckligt Thüschklich utan z, en umlaut eller två och gärna ett 'von' också. Klart man kunde ju kalla det "sehr Nördlichszer" men det blir lite mycket.

jens said...

I think the band you’re looking for is “Troja”, unless there’s two of it. “Tröja” makes a much better tröja, especially if yoü remembêr Blåvitt. :-)

Janne Morén said...

Jens, the band was named "Trojan"; you're probably thinking of some other band. Here's their album cover: http://batzbatz.com/uploads/posts/2009-03/1238481948_trojan.jpg

Janne Morén said...

And yes, I do remember Blåvitt very well. Konsum apparently had an advertising campaign many years ago with the slogan "Välkommen till det glada Konsumgänget" (welcome to the happy Konsum gang). It didn't take long for clever people to note that you could add a single umlaut to completely change the meaning of the slogan (hint: replace "o" with "ö" in "konsum").