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Preview: Comments on: Rhetoric, part 3: Rhetoric in Famous Speeches (102)

Comments on: Rhetoric, part 3: Rhetoric in Famous Speeches (102)

A podcast about words, language, and why we say the things we do

Last Build Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2014 14:35:41 +0000


By: Howard Shepherd

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 22:18:36 +0000

Ellen, Someone once said (or if they didn't, they should have), "Why let the facts stand in the way of a good punch line?" There's no doubt that everyone understood Kennedy when he inserted the superfluous article "ein" into the phrase "Ich bin Berliner." The drama of the moment rendered his grammatical error irrelevant. Still, it is funny that one could, conceivably, translate what he said as "I am a jelly doughnut." And while my brother is correct that the locals don't call it a Berliner, when I was in Berlin for the first time (in 1979), I ordered a Berliner in a bakery and was given a raspberry-filled doughnut. That was the tour of Europe where I was trying to order eponymous foods whenever I could: a hamburger in Hamburg; a frankfurter in Frankfurt; wiener schnitzel in Vienna; etc. But I was young and foolish then. The "I am a jelly doughnut" line reminds me of another bad translation joke--this time from German to English. A man is sitting in a restaurant, waiting for his order of sausage to arrive. Finally, frustrated, he calls the waiter over and says: "Waiter, I am here already since one hour. When do I become a sausage?" ("Herr Kellner, ich bin schon da seit einer Stunde. Wann bekomme ich eine Wurst?") (By the way: when I was in Denmark last year I learned that their term for "Danish" is "Viennese pastry." Go figure.)

By: Dave

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 20:07:56 +0000

Hi Ellen, You actually heard that translation from one German student (my brother), but I didn't stop him or correct him. And in fact, the Berliners did understand what JFK meant and reacted with enthusiasm, but they probably would have at least chuckled if he (or anyone else) had made that statement in a casual conversation. As a side note: the local word for a jelly doughnut in Berlin is actually Pfannkuchen. Just about everywhere else it's called a Berliner.

By: Ellen

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 18:00:16 +0000

I remember reading about the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech on Wikipedia about a year ago, and they talk about the "jelly donut" theory, but say that the Berlin populace understood what Kennedy meant. I'm slightly surprised that two German students continued this story on the show, but, anyway. What do i know? I only took one semester of German and have to relearn it about every 6 months. :-) Ellen

By: Howard Shepherd

Thu, 29 May 2008 23:44:31 +0000

John, Ow! Busted! What my brother said. I know that he was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin (nicknamed "Tail Gunner Joe" for his activity in World War II). I also know that there was HUAC--the House Un-American Activities Committee. In my mind, for as long as I have remembered, I have associated Joe McCarthy with HUAC, never making the obvious observation that you make. As soon as I finish posting this comment, I'm going to google "House Un-American Activities Committee" to see if I can resolve this conundrum. Thanks for pointing it out to us.

By: Austin

Thu, 29 May 2008 22:49:29 +0000

Hey Nerds -- Long time listener, occasional interviewer, first time poster. I've really loved this series on Rhetoric. It's been a fascinating change to hear you turn your attention to real-life words in specific - rather than hypothetical - contexts. Maybe this is a recurring feature....? In the meantime, you've reminded me I've always wanted to read "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America," Garry Wills' examination of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Thanks! Your fan, Austin

By: Dave

Thu, 29 May 2008 21:46:42 +0000

"How could SENATOR McCarthy be a member of the HOUSE Un-American Committee?" You are exactly right, of course. I fixed the blog entry to correct my written mistake. Unfortunately, the audio mistake remains in the podcast. Was the Senate committee also called the Committee on Un-American Activities? I remember the acronym HUAC (for House Un-American Activites Committee), but we also know that Senator McCarthy was the legislator who was the primary instigator of much of that activity. Was McCarthy's committee a special committee, or a regular committee of the Senate?

By: John Huyette

Thu, 29 May 2008 21:42:35 +0000

How could SENATOR McCarthy be a member of the HOUSE Un-American Committee?

By: Jörg-Ch. Knochen

Tue, 27 May 2008 07:13:11 +0000

Hi! I'm a long time listener of your show and really enjoy your program. After this episode though, I'm a little dissapointed regarding your choice of german speeches. It's sad, that some kind of lunatic freak like this crazy Austrian Hitler still gets airtime … I don't even think, that his rethorics were THAT good - rather dull and broken up. Here are two speeches that are (in my opinion as a german) much more passionate, much more moving and so much more important for our actual world: First, this is the speech of Ernst Reuter from the 9th of September 1948, in front of the Reichstagsbuilding. West Berlin has been blocaded by the Soviet Union for some months and was starving. So Mayor Reuter assembled his citizens on this spot and did this speech. He actually got the allied forces to form the Luftbrücke, the famous 24/7 flightplan to supply West Berlin with food. HE was the mayor, Kennedy talked of in his speech in Berlin. And the second one: This is the Speech from Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Germany in 1989. From the Youtube-Page: 4500 East Germans had taken refugee on the area of the West-German embassy in Prague, Czech Republic, with a view to be permitted to leave for West-Germany. The video shows the West-German foreign minister at that time, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, standing on the embassy's balcony and telling the refugees that their departure permission had been negociated. Translation: "We're trying for a solution, but I don't want to give a statement now. First I'd like to speak to the Germans from the GDR who are currently at the embassy." "We have come to you to tell you that today, your departure..." (rest is drowned in cheers) Hey, had to get this of my chest. :-) Greeting, Jörg

By: Howard Shepherd

Mon, 26 May 2008 14:59:36 +0000

Miche, Thanks for the clarification about Nixon's famous petulant remark. I'd forgotten about his run for governor in California. Turns out he was wrong, of course. About twelve years later he got the stuffing kicked out of him thanks to a hotel and office complex on the Potomac river--a little place called Watergate. Howard

By: Miche Doherty

Mon, 26 May 2008 07:08:27 +0000

I've greatly enjoyed this miniseries on rhetoric. Regarding the Churchill speech: in case listeners get the impression it was received by the Commons in reverent silence, it might be worth pointing out that proceedings in Parliament were not recorded or broadcast until the 1970s, so no contemporary recording exists. Churchill redelivered some of his famous speeches for BBC archives after the war. Another small point: the famous remark "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more" was not spoken after his defeat by Kennedy in 1960, but after the California gubernatorial election of '62.