‘It means beautiful in Germany': Journey’s Neal Schon unravels the mystery of his new umlauts

Longtime fans have noted that Journey legend Neal Schon has something in common these days with Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead and Mötley Crüe: The umlaut. He’s explaining why now.

The German punctuation mark, while actually dating back to 1845, hasn’t been in wide usage in rock circles since the early 1980s — when it became a parody element in the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Then, two umlauts suddenly showed up on the cover of last year’s The Calling, which was credited to “Neal Schön.”

Matt Wardlaw pressed Schon on the issue, in a new Q&A at Ultimate Classic Rock focusing on Schon’s So U, a long-awaited trio recording with Deen Castronovo and Marco Mendoza that’s due on May 20, 2014 via Frontier Records.

“You know, my father was German and I’ve always liked the umlaut over the ‘o,’ because in German it means ‘beautiful,’ Schon tells Wardlaw. “Every time I go to Germany I see it all over the place, and I didn’t quite know what it meant until I asked some German people that we were with when we were over there. I said: ‘Why is Schön all over the place with two umlauts?’ and they said, ‘It just means “beautiful” in German.’ So I thought that was cool.”

Schon says the change has been noted by those who’ve followed his work in the newly reunited Santana, Journey, HSAS and as a solo artist, and some of them misunderstood it. But the umlaut is clearly here to stay.

“I’ve had very few people come up to me or write me on Facebook or whatever and say: ‘Hey, you know I hate this — take it off,'” Schon says. “There have been a few, indicating that they thought I was a Nazi or something. But you know what? It means ‘beautiful’ in Germany and so I thought: ‘That’s a very cool thing.'”

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  • diffused

    No need to say “double umlaut”. An umlaut is 2 dots above a letter. “Schön” has one umlaut. Neal is a great, soulful guitarist.