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25. Urban Legends

25.1 I am a jelly doughnut

In his famous speech in Berlin, J. F. Kennedy, the president of the United States, announced Ich bin ein Berliner.

This is frequently (and willfully?!) misconstrued as translating to the English phrase I am a jelly doughnut. While the German word Berliner indeed also refers to a German bakery deli, and a naive learner of the German language might be lead to believe Kennedy only embarrassed himself, it was actually never conceived in this meaning by the German audience.

For a scholarly discussion, see the following journal article: Eichhoff, Juergen; Monatshefte, 85 no 1, (1993) p. 71. Ich bin ein Berliner: A History and a Linguistic Clarification.

Summary: President John F. Kennedy's well-known exclamation has been often declared to be incorrect German, causing the President to be totally misunderstood by his audience. It is shown here that and why the statement, translated for Kennedy by a native speaker of German, is the correct and the only correct way of expressing in German what the President wanted to say. 1995-10

25.2 German Did Not Become the US's Official Language by 1 Vote.

There never was any such vote. Dennis Baron, in Declining Grammar, p.218:

In 1795, a proposal in Congress to print all federal laws in German as well as English lost by only one vote. Known as 'the German vote' or 'the Muhlenberg Vote,' after the speaker of the house who reportedly stepped down to cast the deciding negative, this event has been transmuted by pro-English folk tradition into a myth that German came close to replacing English as our national language.

For a more complete account read one of his posts to soc.culture.german.

25.3 Once I heard that Mein Kampf is forbidden in Germany

There is no index of forbidden books. Legally speaking, this is a question of copyright laws.

The state of Bavaria (claims to) own the copyright to Hitler's Mein Kampf. They do not grant the right to publish, copy, or distribute the book in any form, on paper, electronically, or on tape, in an effort to hinder the spread of the book and message. If you get any copy of the book printed after 1945, it was illegally produced and marketed.

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