German Misnomers, Myths,
From Frau Blucher to the Devil Dogs
Often we believe these tall tales and myths simply because they are plausible and we WANT to believe them. A good example is the hard-to-kill-off fact that German lost out to English as the official language of the U.S. by just one vote. One reason this so-called bit of American history seems to be as indestructible as Dracula is that people (especially Germans) like the story and find it plausibledespite the fact that it is anything but plausible or true. (I previously dealt with this persistent myth in the article German - Official Language of the U.S.?)
Another such mythical fact is one that I fell for myself until a better-informed reader corrected me. It's another good example of a plausible explanation that fails to be supported by the facts. In an article on Christmas traditions (at my other German site: The German Way), I mentioned in passing that the word nasty comes from the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast. Well, it sounds good, but it's too good to be true. You can find out why on the German Myth 3 page. (But Nast DID help create the American image of Santa Claus!)
Some German falsehoods fall into the category of harmless and often funny trivia, but they're still wrong, and therefore shouldn't be perpetuated. My favorite example of this kind of German myth is the infamous Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. This one is also an example of a tale that's too good to be true. I don't know how or where it got started, but the explanation of why the mere mention of Frau Blucher's name starts horses whinnying in scene after scene of that great movie is pure horse manure. (see below.)
Other German myths are more seriouseven insidious. A good example of a myth that really needs to be debunked is the classic Autobahn myth. This historical myth, the product of Nazi propaganda, persists to this day. In Myth 8 you'll learn that the first autobahn wasn't even German, and the first German autobahn was inaugurated by Konrad Adenauer, not Adolf Hitler! And did Hitler really snub Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin?
Our latest myth is also historical and falls into the category of "historical" facts that keep getting repeated without any real proof. Did German soldiers name the U.S. Marines "Devil Dogs" in German during World War I, or is there more to the story? Find out in Myth 13.
Recently we also added a new Germanic Trivia section that is closely related to Germanic myths and mistakes. On our German trivia pages you can learn how cobalt got its name, just how genuinely German the British royals are, or that Babe Ruth was German.
More German Misnomers, Myths, and Mistakes
You can learn more about the myths above, plus several others in our German Misnomers, Myths and Mistakes collection. Each myth, misnomer or mistake comes with a detailed true explanation that is often much more interesting than the false version.
- Myth 1: German chocolate cake
- Myth 2: Frau Blucher in "Young Frankenstein"
- Myth 3: The word "nasty" comes from Thomas Nast
- Myth 4: German lost to English by one vote
- Myth 5: The reindeer Donner and Blitzen
- Myth 6: JFK and the "jelly doughnut" speech
- Myth 7: The Pennsylvania "Dutch"
- Myth 8: Hitler's Autobahn?
- Myth 9: Goethe's "Erlkönig" mistranslation
- Myth 10: Hitler and Jesse Owens
- Myth 11: The German Christmas Pickle
- Myth 12: The "Goethe" Quotation
- Myth 13: The Devil Dogs - Teufelhunden? Teufel Hunden?
- Germanic Trivia - Language and cultural trivia
Do you have an interesting German misnomer, myth or mistake to add? Write me!
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