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According to an urban legend, Kennedy allegedly made an embarrassing
grammatical error by saying "Ich bin ein Berliner," referring to himself
not as a citizen of Berlin,  but as a common pastry

  Kennedy should have said "Ich bin Berliner" to mean "I am a person
  from Berlin." By adding the indefinite article ein, his statement
  implied he was a non-human Berliner, thus "I am a jelly doughnut".

The legend seems to stem from a play on words with Berliner, the name of
a doughnut  variant filled with jam or plum sauce that is thought to have
originated in Berlin.
In fact, Kennedy's statement is both grammatically correct and perfectly
idiomatic, and would not be misunderstood in context. The urban legend is
not widely known within Germany, where Kennedy's speech is considered a
landmark in the country's postwar history.  The indefinite article ein
can be and often is omitted when speaking of an individual's profession
or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as
Kennedy did.  Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only
declaring his solidarity with its citizens, "Ich bin Berliner" would not
have been correct.
The origins of the legend are obscure. The Len Deighton spy novel Berlin
Game  published in 1983, contains the following passage, spoken by
narrator Bernard Samson.

  'Ich bin ein Berliner,' I said. It was a joke. A Berliner is a
  doughnut. The day after President Kennedy made his famous
  proclamation, Berlin cartoonists had a field day with talking
  doughnuts.
  The New York Times review of Deighton's novel added the detail that
  Kennedy's audience found his remark funny



  ----- Original Message -----
  From: "robert meyer"
  To: [log in to unmask]
  Subject: Re: T.S.E. at 101
  Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2009 23:38:46 -0800

Gunnar?  Huh?!?  I lived in Germany in the mid 1960s, and the Germans
always referred to a citizen of a city as whatever the city's name was
plus a suffix of "er" - citizens of Frankfurt were "Frankfurters",
citizens of Berlin were "Berliners", citizens of Hamburg were
"Hamburgers."  Only in America Frankfurters are sausages, Berliners are
jelly rolls, and Hamburgers are fried meat patties; Americans just make
up weird words.  I had never heard the word Berliner as referring to
jelly roll until years after that when I was in an American grocery store
and saw a box of pastries called "Berliners" and thought, "how strange"
- but that was in America, not Germany.  Then in the 1980s, I heard that
story on a tabloid TV show called "A Current Affair" hosted by Maury
Povich (and owned by none other than that erudite scholar, Rupert
Murdoch).  After that, the story took off like wild-fire and everybody
was ta! lking about it, saying, "it must be true, it's on TV."   Robert
Meyer

  ----- Original Message ----- From: Gunnar JauchTo:
  [log in to unmask]: 1/19/2009 6:13:48 PM Subject: Re: T.S.E. at
  101


  Sorry, dear Carrol -- I've mixed up JFK's stuff with Obama's -- a
  Freudian slip!Just goes to show how much of a projection of hope he
  was in Europe at the time
   "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- a statement JFK delivered in front of
  hundreds of thousands of people in besieged Berlin at the time,never
  realizing that, in German, a "Berliner" means a doughnut...

  I still remember lots of jokes about that at the time!