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Not A Donut!

July 30, 2009

Some rumors manage to stick around even though they are completely false. One of them is that John F. Kenndey told Berliners in 1963 that he was a donut.

I don’t even know how anyone could come up with that. But let’s go over it slowly. Here’s what Kennedy said when he spoke in front of the Schöneberg city hall on June 26, 1963. He says it at the end, but definitely watch it, it is an incredible speech.

Too difficult to follow? Ok, here goes the crucial part again, with captions.

You can also read the full text of the speech here.

Now, let’s break this matter down. A “berliner”, as some smart commentator must have found out, is a type of sweet in Germany. It’s like a donut without a hole in the middle, and it’s filled with jelly. So, yes, on the face of it, you might think Kennedy said he was a donut.

A Donut? Really?

A Donut? Really?

But here’s where it gets advanced: A “berliner” isn’t actually called that in Berlin. Berliners call these sweets “Pfannkuchen”, quite literally meaning pancakes. One down for the donut theory.

Wikipedia claims the confusion started because Kennedy used the indefinite article “ein”, meaning “a”. Honestly, if you want to point out grammar mistakes, better know your stuff. You can say “a berliner” as well as “berliner”.

With the points made, though, you might still think the rest of Germany surely thought he said he was a donut. Here, a crucial element comes in: Context!

This American President comes to a beleagured city, divided by a wall, in the middle of the Cold War, and calls himself a Berliner. Who in the world would not have thought he meant: “I am a citizen of this town. I stand by you, the USA stands by you, we will not leave you alone, and we will fight for freedom as long as we have to, because we know that, in the end, freedom will win.”

Therefore, never again think he meant himself to be a donut.

And please, spread the word.

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