Archive for February, 2012

The Jelly Doughnut Misconception

February 3, 2012

In the 14th episode (The Beta Test Initiation) of the 5th season of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon presented together with Amy his newly invented Youtube channel ‘Fun With Flags’. One of the most funny scenes was about the Bavarian flag (with Amy holding a giant pretzel). Though most of the fun just lies in the scene itself and Sheldon’s crazy ideas there are a few more subtle fun facts. They may be just coincidental (who knows) but the fun is real.

Fun with the Bavarian flag: TBBT episode 5x14. Photo source: Monty Brinton/ CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It starts with the (non-perfect) German of Sheldon which may be used on purpose (though it somehow contradicts with Sheldon’s nit-picky manner). “Ic(k)h bin ein Bavarian” is easily associated with John F. Kennedy’s famous quotation “Ich bin ein Berliner” from his speech in West Berlin on 26 June 1963. This quotation lead to some kind of misconception about the use of the article ein since Berliner could mean a person from Berlin as well as a kind of jelly doughnuts called Berliner Pfannkuchen (literally, Berlin pankake) known in other regions of Germany just as Berliner but in Berlin itself as Pfannkuchen.

Berliner Pfannkuchen

A New York Times article in 1988 pointed on this claiming that with the article ein the quotation would mean “I am a jelly-filled doughnut.” and the correct way referring to a Berlin citizen would be “Ich bin Berliner”. However, the use of the article is arbitrary and does not change the meaning and nobody in Germany would find it funny if a Hamburg citizen would introduce himself as “Ich bin ein Hamburger” (referring this to a sandwich would be funny but very unlikely). In the context of this wordgame it’s quite funny that Amy introduces herself as a Bretzel – a pastry which is as typial for Bavaria as the ‘jelly doughnut’ is for Berlin. And the obviously wrong article in “Guten Tag das Youtube” (correct would be “Guten Tag, Youtube”) fits into the picture as well. 🙂

Further, Bavaria is some kind of a counterpart of the historical state of Prussia (which capital Berlin was) and people from the middle and nothern parts of Germany are still commonly considered as Preißn (local dialect for ‘Prussians’) in Bavaria. To some extent Bavaria is the ‘Texas of Germany’ being somehow ‘special’ compared with the rest of Germany. It is the geographically largest federal state in Germany with an independent and more conservative spirit. Funny enough, Sheldon (as well as Jim Parsons) is from Texas. 😉

Sheldon's apartment flag

Coat of arms of the Limburg-Weilburg district

Let us conclude with some more fun with flags – i.e. Sheldon’s apartment flag depicting a rampant lion which looked quite familiar to me since such a lion is in the coat of arms of my home county Limburg-Weilburg. 🙂 You may counter that there are many rampant lions on flags or coats of arms since it is a very common symbol – and that’s right. Indeed, Bill Prady said on twitter “The apartment flag is (coincidentally) identical to some Dutch or German department (canton?). I can’t remember which one. Belgian?“. Though it seems to be a matter if coincidence, the specific golden rampant lion with red claws and tounge on a field of azure is found in the arms of the House of Nassau, a diversified aristocratic dynasty in Europe (Weilburg was once the capital of one of the Nassovian territories). And the golden rampant lion on azure is still present on many flags or coats of arms across Europe like the Kingdom of the Netherlands. What is missing on the apartment flag are the golden shingles of the Nassovian arms. As a side note, the capital of the Bahamas was named after William III from Orange-Nassau. And finally, have a look at the seal of Nassau County (Long Island, NY). 🙂