Friday, 20 February 2015

Möwen füttern verboten! (don't feed the seagulls)

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour

This sign at Zinnowitz, on the Baltic island of Usedom, exhorts tourists that feeding the seagulls is prohibited. Or not quite - see the comments below; we think there is either a missing umlaut in futtern/füttern or it is a sign telling the seagulls not to be so greedy!

This prohibition didn't seem to be in effect at Wolgast on the way to Zinnowitz (nor against feeding the ducks). But hey, it is Winter, and our feathered friends need all the nutrition they can get:

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour

I love being by the sea, and gulls are the genius loci whose plaintive calls evoke that edge of the land and the beginning of fathomless oceans for me.

Here is a black-headed gull at Zinnowitz. Hang on Andie, you say. It doesn't have a black head! And you would be right, but during Winter this gull that is so distinctive in the Summer eschews its jet-black hood.

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour

In German they are called Lachmöwe which at first I thought must be a reference to their call ,which could be described as a kind of laconic laugh (Lache). However it derives from Lache meaning a shallow lake or pool, which is their favoured habitat when not by the sea-coast. Still, the sight of them makes me lächeln (smile).

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour

Another sea-side opportunist is the cormorant (Kormoran)  who can be spotted looking out for fish from any perching spot.

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour

And then there is always the ubiquitous herring gull, which in German is called die Silbermöwe or 'silver gull'. In British sea-side resorts they are very likely to swoop down on you and snatch a bite from your bag of fish and chips right out of your hand. But as it is, German sea-side resorts are singularly lacking in fish and chip vendors. And anyway, Möwen futtern ist verboten!

photos of Zinnowitz Möwen by Andie Gilmour


  1. Futtern is not the same meaning as füttern. The first word means eating more than is good for you, the second means providing food.
    So the sign says: do not eat a lot of seagulls in a short time!

    1. Good point! I think maybe it is a sign for the seagulls telling them not to be greedy! :)

    2. Any native German with some linguistic intelligence will immediately smile seeing this sign. While the intended meaning of this sign ("füttern" resp. "fuettern") is "Feeding seagulls is prohibited", due to the missing Umlaut-ü/ue, the sign actually exhorts people not to scoff ("futtern") when eating seagulls! The implicit meaning is even: Eating seagulls is OK, but don't "eat like a horse" while eating all those seagulls.
      Thanks a lot for sharing this funny photo! ))


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