Why it’s so famous:
- Because it’s quoted from John F. Kennedy’s speech at the Schöneberg city hall on 26 June 1963 celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift and the first visit from an American president since the wall was built in 1961. Mr Kennedy wanted to express his solidarity with the West German inhabitants with this sentence.
A more plausible reason is:
- Mr Kennedy’s German grammar was, unfortunately, not the best. This resulted in him making a fool of himself in front of the Germans with precisely this sentence - what he wanted to say was that he is a citizen of Berlin; what he said, instead, was that he’s a jelly-filled doughnut.
How did this happen?
Simple. He said “ein Berliner” instead of simply “Berliner”.
In German, you never express your nationality and occupation with an article:
Bist du Münchnerin?
Er ist Arzt.
Sie ist Studentin.
Ich bin Berliner.
The meaning of Berliner changed with the simple addition of “ein”!
What is a Berliner?
English: Jelly-filled doughnut, jelly donut
North Germany (except Berlin): Berliner
Berlin (and neighbouring areas): Pfannkuchen (so be sure to check before you buy!)
South Germany: Krapfen