ADDED: Speaking of Germans and doughnuts:
There is a misconception that [President John F.] Kennedy made a risible error by saying Ich bin ein Berliner. By using the indefinite article "ein," he supposedly changed the meaning of the sentence from "I am a citizen of Berlin" to "I am a jelly doughnut."
The indefinite article is omitted in German when speaking of an individual's profession or residence but is still used when speaking in a figurative sense. Since the President was not literally from Berlin but declaring his solidarity with its citizens, "Ich bin ein Berliner" was the only way to express what he wanted to say.
It is also true that though the word "Berliner" is used for a jelly doughnut in the north, west and southwest of Germany, but the word is not used in Berlin itself or the surrounding region, where the usual word is "Pfannkuchen."
A further part of the misconception is that the audience to his speech laughed at his supposed error. They instead cheered and applauded both times the phrase was used. They laughed and cheered a few seconds after the first use of the phrase, only when the president made an intentional joke. Poking fun at his own pronunciation of the phrase, he said, "I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!"
A reference to this misconception appears in Len Deighton's spy novel Berlin Game, published in 1983, which contains the following passage, spoken by Bernard Samson:
'Ich bin ein Berliner,' I said. It was a joke. A Berliner is a doughnut. The day after President Kennedy made his famous proclamation, Berlin cartoonists had a field day with talking doughnuts.In Deighton's novel, Samson is an unreliable narrator, and his words cannot necessarily be taken at face value. However The New York Times review of Deighton's novel appeared to treat Samson's remark as factual and added the detail that Kennedy's audience found his remark funny:
Here is where President Kennedy announced, Ich bin ein Berliner, and thereby amused the city's populace because in the local parlance a Berliner is a doughnut.Four years later, it found its way into a New York Times op-ed:
It's worth recalling, again, President John F. Kennedy's use of a German phrase while standing before the Berlin Wall. It would be great, his wordsmiths thought, for him to declare himself a symbolic citizen of Berlin. Hence, Ich bin ein Berliner. What they did not know, but could easily have found out, was that such citizens never refer to themselves as 'Berliners.' They reserve that term for a favorite confection often munched at breakfast. So, while they understood and appreciated the sentiments behind the President's impassioned declaration, the residents tittered among themselves when he exclaimed, literally, "I am a jelly-filled doughnut."The doughnut misconception has since been repeated by media such as the BBC (by Alistair Cooke in his Letter from America program), The Guardian, MSNBC, CNN, Time magazine, and The New York Times; mentioned in several books about Germany written by English-speaking authors, including Norman Davies and Kenneth C. Davis; and used in the manual for the Speech Synthesis Markup Language. It is also mentioned in Robert Dallek's biography of Kennedy, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963.
— William J. Miller, "I Am a Jelly-Filled Doughnut", The New York Times, April 30, 1988.
Another reference to this misconception appears in David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest, published in 1996, which contains the following passage:
"Few foreigners realize that the German term Berliner is also the vulgate idiom for a common jelly doughnut, and thus that Kennedy's seminal 'Ich bein ein Berliner' was greeted by the Teutonic crowds with a delight only apparently political."In 1998 comedian Eddie Izzard made a joke using the same misconception in his Dress to Kill show.