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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 28-July 4

This week, readers sent us comments about whether there is an "Austrian language," extremism and lying by politicians, as well as praise for FactCheck.org.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

The 'Austrian Language'

In the article ["Obama’s ‘Bumbles,’ " June 17], the claim "If any other of our presidents had visited Austria and made Reference to the Nonexistent 'Austrian language,' would you have brushed It off as a minor slip?" was stated as true.

As I am Austrian, I would state that as partly true. Austrians speak Austrian German (see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_German). This is not a dialect. It is a distinct official language in Austria. There are distinct official differences to the Standard German spoken in Germany. The differences are similar to American and British English.

[FactCheck.org wrote:] "The people of Austria mainly speak German, but they also speak Turkish, Serbian, Croatian and a few other languages." There are first- or even second-generation immigrants that speak Turkish and Serbian; they are not official languages unlike Hungarian, Croatian and Slovene which are official languages in parts of Austria.

Please take this into consideration and keep up the good work.

Daniel Ultsch
Graz, Austria

In the Ask FactCheck section regarding the “Obama’s ‘Bumbles’ ” e-mail, an explanation was given about the President’s reference to “the Nonexistent 'Austrian language'” whereby you noted the claim was “True.” Technically, it’s partly true at best. In Austria, they speak Österreichisches Deutsch, which, though a variation of Standard German, contains unique words, phrases, and grammar. More important, if one were to query an Austrian that his language is “nonexistent,” he or she would dispute that assertion, and probably produce an Österreichisches Wörterbuch. I thought the record on FactCheck’s responses should remain as accurate as possible. Thanks for all your work.

Frederick W. Luthardt
Baltimore, Md.

FactCheck.org responds: We have researched this further, and we stand by our original article. We understand our readers' point, that the people of Austria use a different version of German than one would hear in Germany, just as the English spoken in Australia is different from English in the United States. But that doesn't make "Australian" its own language. The Oxford English Dictionary says that "German" is a "language," but does not say the same about "Austrian." We also consulted two linguists, who were divided on this issue. Stephen R. Anderson, a professor of linguistics at Yale University, told us that the German spoken in Austria is different from standard German, "[s]o it's not at all inappropriate to refer to 'Austrian' as a language." He added that "whether to call them separate languages or separate dialects is usually more a social and political question than a linguistic one." But Jay Jasanoff, a professor of linguistics at Harvard University, told us: "You weren't wrong.  The native language of Austria (or, if you prefer, 'of most Austrians') is German."


There Oughta Be a Law

This week's FactCheck.org report makes me want to wring the necks of both sides for all the lying. There should be a law against deliberately attempting to mislead the public.

Patricia E. Chitty
Boise, Idaho


FactCheck.org responds: Readers may be interested in our special report "False Ads: There Oughta Be A Law! – Or Maybe Not" about false advertising laws and political messages.


Thank You

I just want to say Thank You for finding the truth behind what all the politicians and pundits are saying. It makes things much easier to discern with this election coming up next year. I cannot remember things being so volatile in the past. I am just glad I found you and PolitiFact.com. Again, Thank You and the hardworking staff for the countless hours spent finding the truth or lies behind the statements we hear. It is only too bad there cannot be a news show on consistently to help everyone know the truth. So many of the older generation only watch the news or read the papers and do not get on the Internet. Any chance of a FactCheck News program?

Alissa Hartling
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii


Political Extremism

As we enter the election season, it becomes apparent why our politicians exhibit dysfunctional thinking. Posturing on the right and left for the nomination results in untenable economic proposals that appeal only to the extremes and are generally dismissed as such by economists and even former politicians from the same party. The Bachmann and DeMint proposals ["Deficit Arithmetic: Cut Everything 34% Now?" June 27] are as ridiculous as those of the democratic extreme to "just raise taxes." Meanwhile the U.S. economy and our standing internationally "goes to hell in a hand basket" as nothing is accomplished by our overpaid and pampered "party elites."

Lee Henderson
Ithaca, N.Y.