Passed on by Peter Korn on Google+, this enthusiastically crude video:

Some explanation:

Norwegian Song Explains How Bigger Is Better

Not everything is bigger in America!

Kollektivet, (Norway’s version of The Lonely Island) made this music video which explains how everything is bigger and better in America, except for one thing… (link)

… the alphabet. The Norwegian spelling system has the 26 letters English has, plus, tacked on to the end of the alphabet, Æ Ø Å, so it beats out English in the alphabet-size competition. Consequently, the song is known as “The Aeoa song”, or “Size Matters”. To further highlight the extras, the site above credits music and lyrics to the performers,

Fridtjof StensÆth Josefsen and Jakob SchØyen Andersen

In written Nowegian, since these three characters count as distinct letters, they have their own place in alphabetizing. Something similar is true in Spanish and Welsh orthography (some details here). But in other orthographies, like German and French, extra symbols are treated as variants of the basic letters — as a basic letter plus a diacrfitic, or as a sequence of basic letters.

So: German has three umlauted vowel letters – Ä Ö Ü – plus the ligature ß (called Esszet), but these don’t count as “letters of the alphabet” and play no role in alphabetization: the umlauted vowel letters count as variants of A O U, respectively, and ß is treated just like the sequence ss. In French, the five diacritics (acute accent, grave accent, circumflex accent, diaeresis, cedilla) are ignored in alphabetization, and the ligatures Œ and Æ are treated as OE and AE, respectively. Note the difference in the way Norwegian and French treat the symbol Æ.

These are entirely matters of convention, so (as I pointed out in the earlier posting) they can change over time).


One Response to “ÆØÅ”

  1. Éamonn McManus Says:

    It is not completely true that French ignores accents in alphabetization. If two words differ only in their accents then accented letters are sorted after unaccented ones, and if there is more than one difference in accents then ones later in the word are counted before ones earlier. The usual example is the four words cote, coté, côte, côté, which are in alphabetical order. Though I notice that my Larousse sorts mâcon before maçon.

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