While in Germany I had a conversation with a lovely woman called Kate from Australia about the benefits of being 'adjectivised' (I let this blatant example of verbing pass, because she made a good point.) being adjectivised is a good thing. It means to be described with, you know, describing words. As I have mentioned previously, we do not talk about 'queers(n)', but we can talk about 'the queer(adj) community'. Similarly, Kate prefers to be called lesbian, not A lesbian. atheist, not AN atheist.
It's fair enough, especially if one's identity is tied up with words that have been - or are - used in a derogatory fashion. Using nouns to describe someone, apart from breaking pretty basic, primary school literacy rules, is less that one step away from name-calling.
With this in mind, I started feeling uncomfortable listening to the German spoken around me. Germans (oops, German people! Is that a WW2 leftover? We don't talk about Frenches, 'Spaniard' rather than 'Spanish person' is derogatory, but The Germans is... fine?) talk about 'Schwulen and Lesben', literally 'gays and lesbians'. They refer to the Turkish community as 'die Turken' - the Turks. It just makes my skin crawl a little bit. Even though it was clear that this did not carry the dodgy connotations this would have in England.
But then something else occurred to me.
You would talk about lesbians, for example, but you would never say 'sie ist eine Lesbe' - 'she is a lesbian'. You would say 'sie ist Lesbe' - 'she is lesbian'. The word taking on a sort of 'nounjective' quality (think 'I am woman, hear me roar'). You could say 'sie ist lesbisch', making the adjectivisation complete. But this, I think, would be less, not more respectful.
This of course (wild tangent alert!) is where JFK went wrong in Berlin.
By saying 'Ich bin EIN Berliner' he removed his humanity. The indefinite article made it clear to the Germans that an inanimate object was being discussed. unfortunately for Kennedy, the inanimate object which is a synonym for 'citizen of Berlin' is 'iced doughnut'. Hence much sniggering ever after.
But you can see why he did it.
Because in the USA, if you think about it, the opposite is true. In England too, for that matter.
If you say 'I'm American' or 'I'm English'. It's a statement of fact. Whatever.
But 'I'm AN American', 'I'm AN Englishwoman'. Aha! Suddenly we're talking nationalism, civic pride; indeed, faintly racist territory. But in Kennedy's case, he was just trying to show his own pride at being associated with Berlin, and tried to apply an American nuance to the German language.
Which is a warning to us all: Try to be nationalistic in an unfamiliar language, and you might end up a doughnut.