- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

A German by any other name would be a happier German, perhaps. The name in question is "kraut," and it has received the official blessings of the British Advertising Standards Authority.
The watchdog group announced Tuesday that it was perfectly fine for the term to appear in advertising because it was "a lighthearted reference to a national stereotype unlikely to cause serious or widespread offense."
Some gleeful Britons have entertained the idea that Germans subsist on sauerkraut pickled cabbage and onions since World War II; the term has indeed seen some negative use over the decades.
Needless to say, the Germans are plenty sour about the whole thing. "It is offensive. If you were called a cabbage, you would not like it," Tilman Hanckel, German cultural attache to the United Kingdom, said during a press conference yesterday. "I'm rather into pasta. So you can call me a 'spaghetti' instead."
Britain, he then declared, is "a Third World country."
Ironically, the dust-up got started in Germany itself. Timed to appear during last month's England-Germany World Cup qualifying soccer game, a printed direct mail ad for a German abrasives company featured the slogan "The Krauts are coming … with unbeatable quality."
It included a photo of a German soccer star and some action shots, meant to persuade the locals that the sanding discs in question were first-rate. Trouble was, the announcement was concocted by British ad executives who claimed it was "a humorous reference to the Germans' allegedly high consumption of sauerkraut."
The German Embassy was not amused. Incensed officials protested. The British advertising authority intervened, reviewed the situation and then ruled in favor of krauthood.
The whole affair has "particularly galled" the Germans, one newspaper observed, because the term "frog" was condemned by Britain's Independent Television Commission, another watchdog group. This nickname for the French has been around since World War I; in the heat of the moment last year, one English rugby player had been sorely reprimanded after calling his French opponents "stroppy little frogs" in public.
But back to the cabbage insult.
In the last 48 hours, the disagreement has escalated into a hubbub, played out in the British media with various degrees of sobriety and humor. A poll sponsored by the London Evening Standard has found that 56 percent of the respondents found "kraut" inoffensive and 44 percent thought it was abusive.
A reporter for Germany's largest tabloid newspaper, meanwhile, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that it would be "inconceivable" for German advertisements or press to use equivalent ethnic epithets like "Tommy" or "island monkeys," German slang for the British. A German student dismissed the whole situation as archaic.
"Nowadays," she said, "it doesn't smack of anything negative."
The German Embassy is still annoyed, though. "Over time, the name has attracted many negative connotations," diplomat Mr. Hanckel told the press.
The British advertising authority, meanwhile, stands by its ruling. "We have to evaluate everything in its context, and this ad puts a very positive spin on being German," a spokeswoman told the London-based Guardian newspaper. That might not be the case in the future, however.
"Another ad that used the same word might be deemed unacceptable," she added.

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