Diaeresis in the New Yorker

Hadn’t seen one of these in a while and ran across it in the New Yorker below, so figured I’d include it here just because it is so rare. Ironic, then, that, when I searched for it to confirm its spelling, a New Yorker article explaining their use of it popped up.

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Dunkin’ (Donuts) – Gerund or Participle

Was reading this piece from Boston Magazine and it struck me that it referred to the Dunkin’ in Dunkin Donuts as a gerund. My first instinct was to rebel: so few people actually know what a gerund is (and like to impress people by using the term for the -ing form) that it’s just plain wrong. But then I thought about it a bit and realized that, as is so often the case with grammar, it’s open to interpretation.

It all comes down the grammatical context within which the expression Dunkin’ Dounts functions. If, in fact, the act of dunking donuts, say, is awesome, then, indeed it is a gerund: Dunkin'(g) Donuts is awesome! If, on the other hand, dunkin’ is a truncated verb, it becomes a participle: I am dunking donuts.

Even without grammatical context, ambiguity remains: the act of dunking (gerund) or one dunking (participle).

I’ll admit too that, even as I write this, I’m becoming more won over by the gerund reading / interpretation; it’s simply a stronger idea. But still an interesting process to go through.

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