Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed an executive order that will turn the town of Lindstrom, self-described as “America’s Little Sweden,” into Lindström once again. Umlauts had evaporated from updated road signs in the town, owing to new federal rules concerning “Standard Alphabets for Traffic Control Devices.”
“Nonsensical rules like this are exactly why people get frustrated with government,” Dayton wrote in a segment of his statement that had been bolded for emphasis. “Even if I have to drive to Lindström, and paint the umlauts on the city limit signs myself, I’ll do it.” The diacritical dots first appeared on the signs in the ‘90s, after what the Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes as “guerrilla umlauting.”
Mark Karnowski, a former city administrator in Lindström, was rejected when asked if umlauts could be added to new road signs, in order to help tourism.
His request was denied, and he decided to go rogue.
“I took a stepladder and I measured the diameter of the dot above the i in Lindström. And I cut them out.” They lasted maybe a month before highway workers removed them.
But Karnowski contacted a local high school graduate, Mark Wikelius, who had worked his way up the ladder at MnDOT and asked whether he could intercede with higher-ups for a two-dot dispensation. “About a week later he called back and said, ‘Put them back up,’ ” Karnowski recalled.