Is the expression “die alte Huhn” an offense?

A: Kennste Frau X?

B: Die alte Huhn? Ja, die kenne ich.

  • Ich kenne nur "die alte Henne". – RegDwight Jan 2 '14 at 2:28
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    Think of it being similar to the English "(crazy) old bird", or "old bat" to use another one. They're somewhat derogatory in a humorous way. The issue of correct gender usage is described in the answers below. – Kevin Jan 2 '14 at 6:23

It should be das alte Huhn for the right grammar and it definitly is insulting. Not in a very bad way but still.

If you are saying die alte Huhn you are refering to the woman, with the last name Huhn and then this is of course no insult.

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    Why is Huhn and not, say, Kuh or Ziege chosen? – c.p. Jan 1 '14 at 11:17
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    First of all it depends a bit on the dialect what animal you would choose, but also what you want to express, which again can be understood different in each dialect. A "Huhn" for example is considered to be talkactive and selfish, whereby a "Kuh" is just stupid. But as said in another region they might understand this different. – Graffl Jan 1 '14 at 11:25
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    @c.p. Good point, I added it to my answer and hope this is ok. – lejonet Jan 1 '14 at 11:27
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    @Graffl Do you really choose the animal based on the person’s characteristics? – lejonet Jan 1 '14 at 11:28
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    For me personally I have a some animals, which I would use, learned from the people around me, that I grew up with (that is why it is for sure depending on the region) and which animal out of these (let's say five) I choose in the end is indeed depending on what kind of characteristics i want to "describe". – Graffl Jan 1 '14 at 11:32

"Die alte Huhn" would only work in some regions of Germany if Huhn is the family name of the woman. It wouldn’t be an offense when used by e.g. villagers:

Die alte Huhn hat mir erzählt, dass der alte Schmidt gestorben ist.

(Old Mrs Huhn told me, that old Mr Schmidt has died.)

"Das alte Huhn" would be the correct translation in your example and is offensive, although I can also image a humorous notion (with B having a long friendship with Mrs X). I would recommend not to use it, you are walking on thin ice.

Animal names like Kuh and Ziege, as proposed by c-p, are more common to insult women, although a little old-fashioned (Sie ist eine blöde Kuh. or So eine dumme Ziege).

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    Good to know. I had no idea that "Ziege" was used. I've only heard "Dumme Kuh bleibt immer dumme Kuh". – c.p. Jan 1 '14 at 11:28
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    With a minimum of empiricism I'd say that I heard Kuh more often from men, while especially older women tend to use Ziege. ;-) – lejonet Jan 1 '14 at 11:31
  • Ist eine Ziege eher zickig? – Carsten S Jan 1 '14 at 14:14

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