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A Not So American Beer

2 Sep

Uncovering the linguistic secrets behind our American favorites.

Had you ever heard of a Czech town named České Budějovice.  Neither had I.  But thanks to a tip I got via my blog about this place, I now know that Budweiser might not be any more American than Hamburgers!

You probably do not see the connection yet.  However, maybe bells would start ringing if I told you that this town of  is also known as “Budweis”.  (If you have read my recent post on where Hamburgers come from, maybe you have already put two and two together.) In fact, “Budweiser” is simply a German adjective meaning that this beer comes from the town of Budweis.

Another linguistic truth revealed, and the search for something truly all-American goes on…


Where Hamburgers Come From

26 Aug

At first glance, you might not see the connection between hamburgers and the German language.  You might also be wondering why there is a picture of a cargo boat accompanying this article.  After all, we are talking about a landmark in America’s culinary history…or are we?  Keep reading and the pieces will soon come together.

Maybe some of you out there already knew this, but I only discovered today that hamburgers are not necessarily as purely American as I had once thought.  In general, when I hear the word “hamburger” I think, “fries,” or maybe, “yum.”  So in my German class today when I came across this familiar word, I thought that I had the translation in the bag.  However, I had broken the number one rule for language learners:

When a word in a foreign language looks like a word in your native language, never assume that it has the same meaning.

For my fellow language geeks out there the expression “false friends” should be coming to mind.  This is an elementary idea referring to the fact that most languages share words with identical or similar spellings, but that these words can have completely different meanings from one language to the next.  “Hamburger” is a perfect example.

Here is what the German-English dictionary has to say:

1-Hamburger, der

(n.) native or inhabitant of Hamburg.

(Adj.) Hamburg – der Hamburger Hafen, Hamburg Harbor.

2-Hamburger, der

(n.) hamburger

Are you following me?  Hamburg is a major port city in northern Germany, and the etymology behind this beloved American platter apparently comes from this German word referring to the city’s inhabitants and other miscellaneous things originating there!  To sum things up you can find the American variety if you are hungry, but knowing the word also refers to people and a city helps avoid confusion.

So what culinary masterpieces do Americans have left to boast over?  Between German Hamburgers and French Fries, I guess the search for the quintessential American platter continues.