Thursday, June 26, 2008

President or Jelly Donut ?....You Decide.

The world was a very different place 45 years ago. The US and USSR were in the midst of a "cold war" and tensions were high.
Germany had been divided, as had the city of Berlin.The Eastern portion of the city was under Soviet control and the Russians had built the infamous Berlin wall to prevent the citizens from the East escaping to the West.

45 years ago today,President John Kennedy made his now famous speech in which he claimed solidarity with the people of Berlin. Not a German speaker, Kennedy had asked a professional to translate the phrase "I am a Berliner". The resulting phrase appears in his speech as;

"Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner'… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!' "

Over the years, critics of Kennedy have opined that the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner' was grammatically incorrect and that Kennedy had actually said, in German, "I am a jelly donut!".
A wikipedia article discusses the claim and says that Kennedy's phrase was perfectly acceptable German and he was not a jelly donut, after all.

Thankfully, Kennedy hadn't given the same speech in other German cities. It would have been more difficult to explain away the words "I am a Frankfurter" or "I am a Hamburger".

1 comment:

Dominique said...

For gaffes, no one could really beat Joseph Estrada. Talking about sex problems and Bill Clinton, he was rumored to have said: "I get the sex, he gets the problems."