Word of the Week: Rabenmutter
Enlarge image (© www.colourbox.com) Is your mother a Rabenmutter? Let's hope not!
This German word means "raven mother" and it refers to a mother whose parenting skills are not so good. A so-called Rabenmutter does not take good care of her children; she may give them up for adoption or neglect them for various reasons. Working mothers are sometimes called Rabenmutter because they do not have as much time to spend with their children. The term, however, is an insult, so it's not one you should throw around loosely!
The metaphor may come from the fact that raven chicks are known to leave the nest before they can fly. Some people say they do this to escape from their evil mother, although this is surely not the case. Even though raven mothers are known to continue feeding their chicks on the ground, this is often overlooked. When the raven mother is not in sight, it may appear that her chicks are helpless and abandoned on the ground. Historically, ravens have had a bad reputation. You may have read about the raven being selfish, sly, conniving and hungry.
Thus, the word Rabenmutter arose in 14th century Germany as a way to compare ravens with bad mothers. The word Rabeneltern ("raven parents") was also used on occasion, but not as frequently. The terms can be found in old German literature and even Martin Luther used the word Rabenmutter when he translated and interpreted the Old Testament.
By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany