So what about accented characters? If English didn’t steal words from everywhere, we probably wouldn’t have much use for accents. We could use a mark to distinguish between, for instance, the noun and verb forms of protest (prótest versus protést), but we’ve gotten along for centuries without it. The New Yorker, probably unnecessarily, lets readers know typographically that it understands how to pronounce coördinate. But when we need to distinguish between rose and rosé, divorce and divorcé, expose and exposé, or resume and résumé, accents start to look very attractive.
They also have a certain exotic charm. As Emmy J. Favilla says in her BuzzFeed style guide A World Without “Whom,” “I’m partial to using accent marks any chance I can get, because they are cute.” Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House, makes his opinion clear in Dreyer’s English: “Sojourning in a chateau can’t be nearly as much fun as sojourning in a château.” We have a lot of weird silent letters in English spelling (as in people, isle, phthisis) for no other reason than to display where we pillaged the word from, so we’re certainly going to want to keep that extra soupçon of éclat on the façade of jalapeño. Otherwise we would look naive — sorry, naïve. It’s no accident that so many accented letters are found in food terms; we take savory delight in what seems exotic.