I want to get a cross reference about a figure of speech which is common in the Berlin-based part of my family. They use very commonly the phrase "bis Motzen tutet" to emphasis the circumstance that something takes long or takes part at a very late hour.
My aunt explained to me this goes back to some "tower musician" (Turmbläser) in the olden Berlin that played his instrument to call out the beginning of the night. He was, according to her story, named Motzen. Can anyone confirm her story and direct me to more information about this legend?

The internet (read: google) did not present anything about it to me. I don't know where else I could start my online-search for legends like this.

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    I couldn't find this specific figure of speech either, but some general information: A Türmer originally didn't play music. Among his duties was to raise an alarm if he saw danger from his tower, for example a fire or a hostile army. For that, he "tutet" with his horn, which was more like a fog horn than a musical instrument. There are still "Türmer" today who still use the verb "tuten", though their duties are mostly tourism PR these days. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 22:53
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    And lastely, a bit south of Berlin is the town of Motzen. This part is mostly speculation, but I'd consider the possibility that "Motzen" wasn't the guy's name, but the figure of speech might refer to the "Türmer von Motzen", the tower guard from the town of Motzen. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 23:02
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    Never heard that phrase before; for the given meaning I'm only aware of bis in die Puppen, see Wiktionary.
    – guidot
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 6:56
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    Another wild guess: Nearly all smaller settlements around Berlin used to have a military Garrison - So did Motzen. It could also be a reference to the military "Zapfenstreich" that used to be a horn or trumpet blown when soldiers had to be back in their barracks at night.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 9:04
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    Just to reassure you: This type of question is definitely okay here (as demonstrated by the upvotes you got). I’ll remove the first paragraph of your post since it doesn’t add anything relevant ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


DUDEN. Das große Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache in 10 Bänden has an entry for Motzen, which does not mention "bis Motzen tutet" but instead has "bis Motzen schlafen", which means "to sleep very long" in the Berlin dialect. The origin of the expression "bis Motzen schlafen" is supposedly related to Motzen near Berlin, which used to stand for a far away place ("ganz weit draußen").

Das große Lexikon der sprichwörtlichen Redensarten by Lutz Röhrich mentions "bis in die Motzen schlafen" (to sleep very long) without mentioning its origin.

The Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm has an entry for "motzen" as a verb (zögern, langsam, träg sein, and some other, regional, meanings) but not as a name.

Under "tuten" the brothers Grimm mention the following expressions:

  • "wårte bis Michel (der nachtwächter) titt": "unendlich lange, vergebens warten",
  • "aufbleiben, bis Michel (der nachtwächter) tut't": "sehr lange aufbleiben"
  • "schlafen bis Michel (der gemeindehirt) tut't": "früh aufstehen".

Instead of a Türmer, which is mentioned in some of the comments, Grimm & Grimm mention a watchman. (And before anyone edits my response: yes, Grimm & Grimm write "nachtwächter" and "gemeindehirt" in lowercase.)

  • Excellent! So, we can say, the core is the expression "bis Motzen", which means far away either spatially, or temporally!
    – Ludi
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 5:38

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