Word of the Week: Lampenfieber

May 24, 2013

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.


Lampenfieber Enlarge image (© picture alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com) Your palms are sweaty, your pupils dilated, you can barely breathe …  You might be having a heart attack, but you may simply be struck with a case of "Lampenfieber". Literally translated, Lampenfieber means "fever of lamps", but it is no illness. It really refers to those drops of sweat on your forehead (the reason why it is called fever), that nervous, throat-closing-up condition of being stuck in front of a crowd: performance anxiety or stage fright. The latter actually has a close counterpart in German: "Bühnenangst", which is the Lampenfieber you have as an actor on stage. A deer in the headlights is exactly what you could look like when you have Lampenfieber.

There are two types of effects caused by Lampenfieber: positive and negative. We all know how it feels to have negative Lampenfieber, and there are a million cures for the fear of public speaking. A common recommendation to cure Lampenfieber is to imagine everyone in their underwear.  The Germans also give no nonsense tips like breathing exercises, word games and visualizations.

Lampenfieber can also make you feel elated. Imagine the rush of adrenaline in a speech or performance, the feeling of invincibility. Lampenfieber can be the reason we all act a little differently if a camera is watching, and gives us all what we need to sink or swim in show business.

Just because someone makes a career out of standing in front of an audience, doesn't mean they don't suffer from Lampenfieber as well, which is why Bonn University recently developed the "Lampenfieberambulanz". The Lampenfieberambulanz (stage fright ambulance) anonymously helps actors and musicians to overcome their fear and perform. This serious approach to Lampenfieber works for some, but the best cure we've found is this: "Break a leg!" which probably is a translation of the German "Hals- und Beinbruch!"

Hals- und Beinbruch

© Germany.info

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