Discovery Institute honcho Bruce Chapman is upset. In answering a question from a reporter identifying herself as “from a little country, Austria, from Austrian Television,” Obama quipped:
It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing — and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics.
Chapman compares this to such Bushisms as “But oftentimes I’m asked: Why? Why do you care what happens outside of America?,” or Dan Quayle’s belief that folks in Latin America speak Latin. “We know that President Obama knows that Austrians speak German (doesn’t he?),” queries Chapman.
But the Great Gizoogle reveals a little thing called Austro-Bavarian, which is “like standard German… but they are not the same language.” Furthermore, Austrian German is a standard form of German distinct from the standard German used in Germany; the treaty bringing Austria into the EU recognizes that dialect as distinctive, and protects certain food terms as distinctly Austrian. Thus, we might expect that certain idiomatic phrases would be different in Austria than in Germany, so Obama’s quip wouldn’t have worked as well had he made it about “German,” and the timing would’ve been off if he had to say “Austro-Bavarian.”
I don’t mind pedantry (lord knows), but if you’re going to be pedantic, you kinda have to be right.