At the height of World War Two the puppet press of occupied France faced an unexpected difficulty with publishing the news of the day Nazi propaganda handed down to them by their German overseers.

Advertisement

Umlauts are rare in the French language (but obviously plentiful in German) so the French printing houses had nowhere near enough of the properly formatted vowel typesets. This being wartime there was also a shortage of available steel to make new letters for the newspapers to use. To get around this problem it was decided that until the umlauts could be manufactured the newspapers would use an inverted vowel to take the place of the proper diacritical mark. Considering the fact that the letter e is the most commonly used vowel and the most plentiful piece in the typesetter’s kit it was finally chosen as the inverted replacement to be used.

It didn’t take long before it came to be known as the Vichy-Schwa.