Word of the Week: Kuckucksei
Every Friday, Germany.info and The Week in Germany highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.
"Jemandem ein Kuckucksei ins Nest Legen" (Putting a Cuckoo's Egg into Someone Else's Nest)
Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/Arco Images GmbH)
Traditionally Easter eggs are symbols of rebirth and new life coming into existence and therefore have a positive connotation. But there is one sort of egg nobody wants to receive as an Easter present - a "Kuckucksei" (Cuckoo's egg).
The reason is the way the Cuckoo raises its young.
The Cuckoo doesn't breed its eggs on its own. Instead, it secretly places the egg inside of another birds' nest and lets the other bird do all the brood work.
To avoid the major strains of raising their own young, Cuckoos have evolved vicious strategies for accommodating the Cuckoo's egg into a host nest. The male Cuckoo lures the host bird away from its nests and then the female Cuckoo lays her egg sneakingly into the nest of the host. To make sure that the hosting bird won't recognize the gatecrasher some Cuckoo's eggs are dark in color so as to resemble and blend in with the building materials of the nest. As the baby Cuckoo hatches, which usually happens much earlier than the hatching of the host bird's own chicks, it throws the other eggs out of the nest.
Enlarge image (© dpa - Report)
Consequently the "Kuckucksei" is a synonym for a small, harmless and precious looking present that, as soon as it is unpacked, reveals its true detrimental character and causes enormous harm to its recipient. It is the spring-time equivalent of the "Trojan Horse".
Hence, when someone intends to affect somebody in an adverse way or is willing to cause somebody harm maliciously and treacherously, the person "puts a cuckoo's egg inside someone elses nest" (Legt einem anderen ein Kuckucksei ins Nest).
So when examining your Easter presents make sure that no one brought you a "Kuckucksei".