Ich bin ein Berliner

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"Ich bin ein Berliner" was John F. Kennedy's famous statement on June 26, 1963, to the beleaguered citizens of West Berlin during the height of the Cold War.

There is an urban legend stating that "Ich bin ein Berliner" can be willfully mistaken to mean "I am a donut", and that this mistake caused some ridicule among his audience. This is incorrect, since a Berliner is not known as such in Berlin, but as a Pfannkuchen. It is also quite clear from recordings that the audience responded with cheering rather than laughter.

It is also said that the grammatically correct thing for Kennedy to have said would actually have been "Ich bin Berliner" meaning "I am a person from Berlin". This is also incorrect, since "Ich bin Berliner" indicates specifically that the person is from or living in Berlin. By adding the indefinite article ein, the speaker instead indicates a figurative relationship or that he only shares some characteristics with the group indicated. It is clear that this was in fact Kennedy's intended meaning at the time.[1]

See also


  1. Eichhoff, Jürgen: '"Ich bin ein Berliner": a History and a Linguistic Clarification', Monatshefte 85 (1993), 71-80