Urban legends/Ich bin kein Pfannkuchen

In an important discussion about doughnuts on an ITI list, Herbert Eppel‘s Google search gave me a useful link :

Linguist Jürgen Eichhoff, writing in the academic journal Monatshefte, confirms there was no flub on Kennedy’s part. “‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ is not only correct,” he says, “but the one and only correct way of expressing in German what the President intended to say.”

Thank goodness for that! It’s amazing what hordes of people who don’t speak a word of German love to jump on that bandwagon.

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12 thoughts on “Urban legends/Ich bin kein Pfannkuchen

  1. http://www.presstelegram.com/Stories/0,1413,204~21474~2925079,00.html “Newsweek magazine followed, and added an embellishment, saying that the crowd ‘chortled over Kennedy’s line.’

    But there was a problem with Newsweek’s claim, and it shows up on audio and video tapes of the Kennedy speech. The problem is that no one in that vast audience chortled. No one. Actually, everyone cheered wildly. They understand what Kennedy said or tried to say.”

  2. Des: if you look at the Newsweek article (this is very recent – I have not had success using html in these comments but others do – Newsweek ) the problem is said to be because he used the article instead of saying ‘Ich bin Berliner’.
    Margaret: I see one of the three links given in the urban legends article, ‘A Berliner remembers’, quotes a woman who said she laughed as a girl. Presumably her memory deceived her.

  3. So do actual Germans pretend he said something wrong? I thought it was only ignorant foreigners who perpetrated this meme. If so, why, since it’s perfectly good German? If a foreign politician said “I am a New Yorker” I can’t imagine an American responding “Ha ha, he called himself a magazine!”

  4. language hat: You’re right, it’s only the non-native speakers of German who say this. But the story is obviously one people love to tell, and they range from those who speak no German at all to those whose German is very good. Incidentally, I am equally irritated by an into-German belief among Germans, that the German translation of Humphrey Bogart’s line in Casablanca, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’, is brilliant and better than the original.

  5. Ah, OK. Meanwhile, the Wikipedia entry says:

    The jelly doughnut urban legend apparently arose in Florida in the 1980s and culminated in a letter to the editor to The New York Times in 1987 which claimed that the error was embarrassing and resulted in laughter.

    Although I’d’ve liked a source for this such “apparently”.

  6. You wrote: “I see one of the three links given in the urban legends article, ‘A Berliner remembers’, quotes a woman who said she laughed as a girl. Presumably her memory deceived her.”

    Other Margaret says: Either that, or her lone laugh was drowned out by the cheers of the rest of the crowd. Though you’d think she’d have noticed if that were the case. :)

  7. Now _that_’s real flame bait. The closest thing to a truce I’ve seen is that doughnuts are Blightian, and filled with yummy jam, while donuts are Murkan and have holes.

    It’s an artificial retrofit, but it can work if you announce it authoritively enough…

  8. In the most obscure part of what perhaps used to be where David (TEFL Smiler) ‘s ancestors came from, I found a bakery that had been going for 45 years, just shutting for the weekend, and they forced on me what turned out to be the most delicious doughnuts I’ve ever had. I don’t think I have a close-up.

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