Uni Watch: A linguistic evolution

The umlaut -- that typographic mark consisting of two raised dots, best known to Americans for its appearance in the names of rock bands like Mötley Crüe and Hüsker Dü -- is about to have its NFL moment.

That was the news Wednesday out of Minnesota, where the Vikings announced that wide receiver Moritz Boehringer is changing the name on his jersey to Böhringer, complete with an umlaut.

The two spellings are essentially synonymous in Böhringer's native Germany (an umlaut can be removed from above a vowel if an "e" is added to follow that vowel), but he prefers the umlauted version, so that's what he'll wear on his back.

Böhringer isn't the only NFL player with a diacritical mark on his nameplate. Wide receiver Pierre Garçon began wearing a cédille -- the little hook on the bottom of the "c" -- during his time with the Colts and has continued to wear it with Washington.

Böhringer's umlaut is part of a recent flurry of athletes embracing their ethnic heritage on their uniforms, much of it taking place in Major League Baseball. Earlier this week, Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Adrián González announced on social media that he was adding an accent to the name on his jersey and challenged teammate Enrique Hernández to do likewise, writing, "After 16 years in baseball, there was only one thing I needed to put an accent on. Kike [Hernández's nickname], I challenge you to join."

Hernández quickly responded by having an accent added to his own jersey and composing his own social media post. "Look how pretty Hernández looks with its accent," he wrote. "I invite all my Latino brothers to get their accent."

Several MLB players had already added accents before Hernández issued his invitation, a trend that may have been spurred by a memo the MLB office sent to all 30 teams earlier this year.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, begins, "With the goal of recognizing and celebrating the diverse culture of Major League Baseball, we respectfully request that all 30 clubs have a formalized process in place to ask every MLB player on their roster if he would like any diacritics (e.g., accent, tilde, etc.) added to his name on his jersey."

The new policy appears to have resulted in an increased number of accents on the jerseys of Latino players. New York Mets teammates Yoenis Céspedes and Bartolo Colón, for example, have added accents to their jerseys this season after not previously wearing them during their respective careers:

There's a similar situation in Baltimore, where Orioles teammates Pedro Álvarez and Ubaldo Jiménez have added accents:

The trend has also reached the managerial ranks this season, as seen on the back of Braves skipper Fredi González, who had previously been accent-free:

Diacritical marks on jerseys are not a new phenomenon. Former Mets catcher Alex Treviño wore a tilde -- the squiggle above the "n" -- way back in 1980. But the surge of recent activity on this front suggests a renewed wave of ethnic pride among today's players. When paired with the increased use of generational suffixes appearing on uniforms in recent years ("Jr.," "Sr." and Roman numerals), that makes this one of the most dynamic and interesting periods in nameplate history.

Paul Lukas has never had an accent or mark as part of his name (but has to admit that "Lükas" would look pretty cool on a jersey). If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.