“Wonder candle” and “Lamp fever”: Some New German Words

I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time, so I thought it was time for one. It’s going to be short and sweet, but nevertheless you’ll hopefully leave this blog knowing a new word or seven! Here are some of the words I’ve written down along my German journey that are worth mentioning. Enjoy!

stilles Wasser (to describe a person)

literally: still water

translation: dark horse

This phrase is used to describe someone who, well, is a dark horse – someone who has a deep, dark secret but doesn’t show it. I’m going to guess the German phrase refers to still water of the sea or a lake, suggesting that everything is calm and OK – when really, deep down, it definitely isn’t! (Or, maybe it’s because the Germans love their fizzy water and what German wants to be referred to as still water?!)


literally: wonder candle

translation: sparkler

How nice is this word?! German refers to sparklers (as in, what we have on Bonfire Night) as ‘wonder candles’! I mean, they are pretty wonderful. And, I guess, kind of like a candle too… that burns really fast and makes me panic.

I might start calling them wonder candles. Image credit: — Subash BGK ( – Subject to CC 2.0 License.



literally: to flash (I guess!)

translation: to impress

Ha! You thought it meant the English phrase “to flash”, right?! Yeah, so did I the first time I heard it. There’s a German song that was famous a few years ago whose chorus I understood as: “Flash at me again as if it was the first time”. Genuinely thought it was about flashing bums or something. Turns out the poor singer just wanted to be impressed.


translation: plump

This isn’t exactly a big, new, exciting word, but I was surprised when I came across this the other week to find it actually just means plump. I’ve never heard of it before in the 15 years I’ve been learning German, yet it’s such as simple word. The things you learn!


translation: umpteen/countless

Also a rather minor word that I’m still surprised I’d never heard of it before. Just as we say “umpteen” or “countless”, the Germans have the colloquial word “zig”. Now you know!


literally: ghost driver

translation: someone who is driving on the wrong side of the road

This one I couldn’t work out when I first heard it. I thought it might be something to do with a driver who is really small so you can’t see them in the car, or when a car moves by itself after somebody forgets to put the handbrake on. Turns out it actually means when somebody is driving on the wrong side of the road. Apparently, “ghost driver” is actually used in American English, too! Or, at least to according to Don’t hold me to that.


literally: lamp fever

translation: stage fright

And last but not least: ever had a spot of lamp fever? Well, you might have done if you’re German! I can’t remember when I learnt this word, but I can imagine I wouldn’t have understood it at first. It sounds like you’re allergic to light or something! But I guess it might have something to do with stage lights…

I mean, that IS a lot of lamps. Image credit: — Max Tarkhov ( – Subject to CC 2.0 License.

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