Aldi and Mussolini

It’s well known that if something is repeated often enough, most people start to believe it and repeat it themselves.

When Americans (and certainly not only Americans) want to describe this phenomenon, we say, “Mussolini made the trains run on time.” The story is that when the dictator Benito Mussolini ruled Italy, his propaganda people repeated this assertion so much that most of the public began to believe it and repeat it themselves, even though Italian train service had really not improved.

I noticed this in operation at companies where I worked. I found that if everyone around me said in exactly the same words that some manager “is a hell of a nice guy and used to have his own business,” there was most certainly something wrong with him. In that particular case, the man was an alcoholic who was incompetent at his job and almost ruined his division of the company.

I have noticed that nearly EVERY German I talk to gets defensive if I don’t like Aldi. It’s almost as if I’d hurt their national pride. They all say, in exactly the same words, “The prices at Aldi are cheaper, and everything is of excellent quality.” Well, in reality, Aldi’s prices are cheap, but not that much cheaper than those at discount stores that actually have customer service. Some of the products sold at Aldi are, in fact, of excellent quality. But most of them are of ordinary quality, and some of the products are much worse than the equivalents sold at other discount stores. I know that Germans are very, very capable of distinguishing gradations of product quality, so all I can think is that this is another case of Mussolini making the trains run on time.

Hi Jamie

There is a well-known legend in Germany that German almost became the national language in the US. The legend is that the US government had a vote to decide on the national language at the end of the 1700s at which time German lost out to English by one single vote, and so English became the official language of the US.

When I first moved to Germany, I heard this story from lots of Germans right away and heard it endlessly thereafter. When I left Germany 17 years later, the story was still alive and well – despite all the valiant efforts on my part to dispel it. :lol:

I had never heard this story before my arrival in Germany. Obviously, I knew that it couldn’t possibly be true since we didn’t have any “official” language in the US. There was no law stating any language to be the one and only national language of the US. But the story is repeated so often in Germany, that nearly every German has not only heard it, but also considers it to be fact. Whenever I told my German friends and students that the story was incorrect or just a myth, they simply thought I was mistaken and that it was just one more example of how undereducated and misinformed we Americans are. :roll:

Eventually I decided to do some research to see if I could find out how the story came to be. What I found out was that there had once been a vote, but not about what the official national language in the US should be. The vote in question was about whether some specific legislation, which had been printed/published only in English, should be translated and printed in German additionally – hardly a vote on which language should be the one and only official national language in the US.