Talk:Ich bin ein Berliner

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Jelly doughnuts are called "Berliner" outside Berlin (but usually referred to as "Pfannkuchen" in Berlin itself). This has led some people to believe that the phrase Kennedy uttered was amusingly ambiguous ("I am a jelly dougnut"), which is, for the most part, incorrect. While the phrase could possibly be understood that way, both the context of the quote and the fact that jelly doughnuts are not actually called "Berliner" in Berlin made this unlikely. Normally a Berliner would say "Ich komme aus Berlin" ("I am from Berlin"), but because Kennedy wanted to emphasize the common identity among people of the "world of freedom", that usage would have been misleading. "Ich bin Berliner" (cf. "Ich bin Amerikaner", "Ich bin Deutscher" etc.) would be preferred in common usage, but "Ich bin ein Berliner" is not grammatically incorrect (especially in a larger context such as "Ich bin ein Berliner von Millionen" - "I am one Berliner among millions").

The jelly doughnut urban legend apparently arose in Florida in the 1980s and culminated in a New York Times article in 1987 which claimed that the error was embarrassing and resulted in laughter. The context made the meaning very clear, though, so nobody misunderstood Kennedy when he delivered his speech. He did however pronounce the sentence with a very strong American accent, reading from his note "ish bin ine bear-LEAN-ar". Contrary to the urban legend, it was not followed by a roar of laughter. Audio and film recordings show the remark was followed by applause and cheers, as was witnessed by television audiences in Europe and the United States at the time. [1]

The German word for a German male is "Deutsche", not "Deutscher", the reason for this, is that to describe someone from Germany, you would say "Deutschlander", however the adjective "deutsch" (German) gives the necessary meaning to indicate where the individual from, and similar to other adjectives it simply takes an "-e" for nom. masc., although the acc. masc. becomes "-en". Basically, take "d* adj-root-* Mensch" then simply turn the adjective into a noun, by removing "Mensch" and capitalizing the adjective. "Die Große" (the big one), "Die Jungsten" (the youngest), "Der Deutsche" (the German). As "Amerikan" is an adjective derived from a place, the place is used, although "Der Amerikane" could be used when you're talking about a group of people, and want to particularly point out the American for being American.
I've not really heard of any usage that provides for putting "ein-" before a profession/location/etc simply to make it sound like a rhetorical phrase. I believe most German speakers would feel that what makes the sentence a rhetorical phrase is the usage it was in. He quotes Latin: "civis romanus sum", which is a full and direct statement that a person is a Roman, period, not rhetorically. He later continues one to say: "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin." He distinctly says without any rhetorical grammar say that all people who are free are literally citizens of Berlin... out of context. The context is what gives it the rhetorical meaning.
If you want to say, "I am a Berliner", but state that you are still not actually a Berliner, you would use a differnet form of the verb all together. "Ich wäre ein Berliner", or "Ich sei ein Berliner". Both of these are subjunctive phrases that express that you're saying you're a Berliner, but that you're not actually a Berliner. The rhetorical use of "ein" here is for strengthening the statement, not to alter the meaning of the phrase to indicate that he's not really from Berlin, but he's saying he's from Berlin. --Puellanivis 20:41, 12 December 2007 (EST)
Virtually every German phrase in the statement above is wrong one way or the other:
  • "a German" in German is "ein Deutscher", "the German" is "der Deutsche" (that's a finer point concerning the strong and the weak declination of adjectives)
  • "Deutschländer" is only a brand of sausages: while "Irländer" is an synonym for "Ire" (Irish) , and "Finnländer" may be used instead of "Finne" (Finn), "Deutschländer" isn't much of a German word....
  • "der Große", "der Jüngste", "der Amerikaner"
  • "Ich sei ein Berliner" is a clumsy phrase - and wishful thinking. It would be used in indirect speach...
  • "Ich wäre ein Berliner": ditto.
  • whether you say - or omit - the article "ein" is irrelevant for the meaning of the statement. Inserting it seems to make sense for an American, I suppose, as it parallels the English phrase.
  • --BRichtigen 17:07, 15 October 2008 (EDT)

    My friend Erik Möller from Wikipedia wrote the above. He is a native speaker of German. --Ed Poor 10:11, 12 April 2007 (EDT)

    Actually, "ein Berliner" is not only not incorrect, it is exactly the correct way to express that common identity. "Ich bin Berliner" would be incorrect in that context, as e.g. Jürgen Eichhoff shows in Monatshefte 85 (1993). I'd suggest just removing that whole second paragraph, although mentioning that the urban legend exists might be appropriate. AKjeldsen 19:46, 16 April 2007 (EDT)