Word of the Week: Muttermal

May 6, 2011

Muttermal (Birthmark) Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/dpa) Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.

Muttermal (Birthmark)

In German, a "Muttermal" is a birth mark. A more literal translation would be "mother's mark", though of course hardly anyone would ever say that in English.

A more negative expression oft cited by media outside of Germany in reports comparing public sector childcare policies in various countries is "Rabenmutter", which literally means "raven mother". A woman might be referred to as a "Rabenmutter" if she flees the nest by going to work or otherwise leaving her children up to their own devices, even if she ensures that a grandparent, nanny or daycare center are providing adequate childcare for her offspring in her absence. Mother with Children Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/CTK)

This is a real hotbutton issue in Germany, with people arguing for or against mothers going to work, or seeking out a mix of employment outside the household coupled with traditional maternal childcare duties.

"Muttertag" means the same thing in German as it does in English - "Mother's Day". In Germany and the United States, as in many other countries including Austria, Australia, Brazil, Japan and Italy, it is observed on the second Sunday in May.

And of course the word "Mutter" conjures up mostly warm and fuzzy feelings for most Germans, who adore their Moms just like everyone else all over the world.

© Germany.info

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