Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Ich bin kein Oesterreicher

When JFK announced to the world that he was a German pastry (to convey his intended meaning, he should have said "Ich bin Berliner," not "Ich bin ein Berliner") people got what he meant, even if those in the know might have snickered a bit.

Now along comes Barack Obama, who apparently believes that Austria has its own language. If George W. Bush or Sarah Palin had said such a thing, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert would be laughing about it on late-night television. But in this case, schoolchildren may well come to believe that Austrians speak Austrian. If Obama says it, it must be true, no?

Well, we Austrian-Americans ("I [pronounced with a long "e"] bin a Oesterreicher") might have to demand more cultural sensitivity on the part of our President, especially since our Heimatsland extends respect to Islam, even if the respect isn’t always reciprocated.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Oh come off it, Knippenberg. Of all the people to belittle a faith because it refuses to bow to nationalism . . . Do you poke fun at those silly Jehovah's Witnesses too? If I remember correctly, while one famous early twentieth-century Austrian dictator was interning such religious radicals (and this, of course, includes Catholics), your Pope was keeping his mouth shut. I'm glad your religion is the right one or else God might've gotten pissed.

If anything, I think Mr. Knippenberg made Obama's point for him, by noting the difference between Austrian German and German German. "I bin a Osterreicher." - not "Ich bin Osterreicher" apparently.

"If George W. Bush or Sarah Palin had said such a thing, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert would be laughing about it on late-night television."

...and NLT would be decrying the victimization of their President or their Sarah by the evil media (as though Maher or Colbert are journalists with some responsibility to be impartial?). So, what you want here (again) is for the media to treat BOTH sides (Dem and Repub) unfairly EQUALLY? But again, I'm not buying your premise that Colber or Maher need to be fair. Does Limbaugh? (former Ashbrook honored guest speaker) Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have shows that are billed and marketed as news and news analysis programs. Different deal than shows with musical guests and opening monologues (as describes Colbert and Maher).

Well, those public school kids can believe that Austrians speak Austrian (like Ob-Gyns practice their love of women!), but you can teach your kids how wrong Obama the anti-Christ was about that.

The post-1970s Democratic Party has always billed itself as more worldy and sophisticated, more European, than the yahoo Republicans. I merely point out that the worldly, sophisticated, well-educated Obama (and his worldly, sophisticated, well-educated State Department) have made their share of howlers, of which this isn't the first and likely won't be the last (remember the reset button HRC gave to the Russians).

As far as the language goes, Austrians recognize that what they speak among themselves is a dialect--it used to differ from village to village and from valley to valley, but modernity is rapidly effacing those differences. They are also perfectly capable to expressing themselves in what they call Hochdeutsch, but never regard the Dialekt as Oesterreichisch.

Finally, I think that Colbert, Maher, and company ought to lampoon everyone, Democratic yahoos as well as Republican, but only when it's genuinely funny to do so.

Why should Colbert or Maher be equal-opportunity lampoonists (?)? They're comedians and they ought to be able to choose their material as they see fit, objectivity be damned. Also, in the case of Colbert it really wouldn't make sense, since the entire purpose of his show is to be a gonzo version of Bill O'Reilly (mixed in with some Glenn Beck).

A friend of mine from Berlin (Germany, not Ohio) told me that "Ich bin ein Berliner" is perfectly good German. It means "I'm a person from Berlin." He said that he usually refers to himself as "ein Berliner" and that it has no connotations with the pastry. He also told me that only Americans make this false connection with the pastry.

Stu's right. In fact, the only people who actually find Kennedy's remarks even remotely amusing tend to be American or English speakers who don't speak or read German - or, indeed, Austrian - and who are happy to parade urban legends as learning. As Stern (that's an unreliable German magazine for everyone who's not "European," apparently an insult) wrote a while back: "Der Satz 'Ich bin ein Berliner' hat seitdem einen Stammplatz in den Geschichtsbüchern, wenn es um die Zeit des Kalten Krieges geht." No translation necessary, of course.

Furthermore, President Obama's use of the word "Austrian" seems fine if we're to believe the Austrian Ministry of Education, who publish the Österreichisches Wörterbuch (that's the Austrian Dictionary for everyone who doesn't speak German, whether Hochdeutsch or otherwise).

Ouch - it's gotta hurt when even the petty sniping isn't successful.

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