AEIOU isnt just a string of vowels

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of AEIOU?

Looking through historical records, or a close inspection of certain buildings in Austria such as the Burg Wiener Neustadt, may cause you to repeatedly come across a particular set of vowels: A.E.I.O.U. No, this is not some sort of spelling lesson meant to teach the vowels through repetition. But we can forgive you for arriving at this conclusion. That said, the actual meaning of this set of vowels is far from clear.

We know that these letters were used as a personal signature by Habsburg Emperor Frederik III. He ruled as Holy Roman Emperor from 1452 until 1493. Prior to that, he was Duke of Styria and it was in this capacity that he first used his 5-letter monogram in 1437. There are multiple possible meanings for A.E.I.O.U. The most common (and provocative) one is surely that it is an acronym for ‘Alles Erdreich Ist Österreich Untertan’ (All the world is subject to Austria).

This meaning actually comes from Frederik III’s notebook. It is not written in the same hand as other parts of the notebook. Another less-provocative meaning comes from the same notebook. Here the 5 vowels serve as the initial letters of the words of the first line of a poem in Latin: amor electis, iniustis ordinor ultor. This means ‘I am loved by the elect’.

Given that Frederik III was not the ruler of Austria when he first wrote this inscription, it is unlikely that he meant it to mean that all the rest of the world was subject to Austrian rule. But the world domination explanation nevertheless remains popular today!

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