The “Ich bin ein Berliner” myth. Admit it, you’ve always believed this urban legend, haven’t you?

You know JFK’s famous speech in 1963, where he said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” where the American pedants and English-language German books all claim that it really means “I am a jelly donut,” not “I am a Berliner” as Kennedy obviously intended? That’s the story.

Sure. We all know the story. It’s common knowledge. But, as someone said in a different context, it’s so common that it isn’t even true.

For the true story, watch Felicia’s short video on the subject. (Click on the link in the preceding sentence, not on the image above.) Felicia, better known as the German Girl in America, is a recent expat from Germany who is fluent in English and who knows what she’s talking about.

Aside from debunking the myth, Felicia also tells us where it came from—a cautionary tale for those who believe whatever the New York Times says. I don’t want to spoil the video, so let me just say that a Times reporter took a line from a novel by Len Deighton—a work of fiction, mind you—and reported it as the truth. For the full story, watch the video, and pay careful attention to it.

Categories: Books, Linguistics