Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ich bin ein Asperger

When President Kennedy declared "Ich bin ein Berliner", he was trying to tell the people of West Berlin that he was one of them and that their struggle was also his. A few Germans giggled when he said that, because Berliner can also mean "jelly donut". JFK's speechwriters should have had him say "Ich bin Berliner", meaning that he is a resident of Berlin, and not a jelly donut.

I learned this little bit of trivia when I took a semester of German while I was an undergraduate. In the German language, a person from someplace will often be described by a noun that has an '-er' to the end of the word. Thus, if I wanted to say "I am an American", I would say "Ich bin Amerikaner". Someone from Brazil would be called a Brasilianer. And yes, a resident of Vienna (Wien) would be called a "Wiener".

Some of these names are now used to describe certain foods. So, we have Frankfurters, Wieners, Hamburgers, etc. This got me thinking: what is an Asperger?

As it turns out, there actually is a small town in southern Germany called Asperg. They even have a coat of arms:



Hans Asperger was born in Vienna and practiced medicine there for most of his life. It is entirely possible, however, that some of Dr. Asperger's ancestors came from Asperg, and that is how he got the name.

There is not very much to Asperg itself. It is a small town north of Stuttgart, in the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg. A Google search turned up a website for the city of Asperg. Everyone there seems to be very proud to be an Asperger!

So. If I were to say "Ich bin Asperger", I would be saying that I live in the town of Asperg, or that I identify with the town. Now, if I said "Ich bin ein Asperger", I believe that I would be saying something more. I would be identifying myself with the town's most famous son, as it were.

The next time we all decide to have some sort of convention, we should definitely consider holding it in Asperg, Germany.

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