Advent Calendar 19 – Home Cinema

Written By: Emanuel Updated: December 25, 2023

“Home Cinema”


Hello everyone,

and welcome to day 19 of the epic Advent Calendar.
And behind today’s door are two really cool German expressions that both are in essence about our brain and what it can do to us at times.
They’re actually fairly famous and I’m sure lots of German learning outlets on Youtube, Insta and wherever have used them for content, but hey… I want to have some cheap mainstream learning content, too :)

So yeah, we’ll jump right in with the first one, which is… drumroll…

das Kopfkino

And even if you don’t know it, maybe you have at least an inkling as to what it’s about.
Translated literally, it is “head cinema” and it’s basically a word for when have a really vivid imaginary scenario in your brain. Like… your extremely sexy boss who you have a crush on tells you that there’s a really important private meeting for just you two, after work.
Or if you partner sends you a text saying “We need to talk.”.
And when that talk then turns out to be just about how they want to switch from buying regular milk to almond milk, you could say something like:

  • Puh, ich hatte schon voll das Kopfkino, was los ist.
  • Phew, I already had all kinds of crazy scenarios in my head about what’s going on.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Let’s look at a couple more examples. And I’ll just use “head cinema” as a translation. It was actually mentioned in a dictionary, but I’m not sure if it’s a thing in English or just a verbatim translation. Let me know in the comments please :)

  • Was tun, wenn das Kopfkino wieder mal nicht aufhört.
  • What to do if the mental cinema won’t stop playing.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Kopfkino: warum es gut ist, sich Sorgen zu machen.
  • Mental cinema“: why it’s good to worry.
    (newspaper article, you can find it here)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Now, technically, Kopfkino can be good and bad. But overall, it’s way more common in negative contexts, for worry and anxiety.
And anxiety brings us right over to the other word for today: das Gedanken-Karussell.

das Gedanken-Karussell

Literally it is the thought carousel which is also a “thing” in English, as far as I know.
And even if you don’t know it, I think the meaning is quite intuitive – a Gedankenkarussell is what have at 2am at night, when the same thoughts are circling in your head over and over and over and over and over and over and over. A merry-go-around of a bunch of thoughts… sounds kind of cute, actually. But it’s not, of course, because the thoughts are not pleasant. They’re  stuff like “I should have said this” or “I should have done that.” or “What if this happens?” – worry, anger, resentment.

English has the wonderful term ruminating thoughts, which at least to me, sounds just perfect for what they are. Like a never tiring rodent, gnawing on your internal wiring in a way.

The more scientific term in German is das Grübeln, or more precisely das zwanghafte Grübeln. Because grübeln alone just means to think really really hard, but that can also be over a really complicated math problem.
It’s the compulsion, the Zwang, that makes it a problem.

But in daily life, I think Gedankenkarussell is the much better term for it, because it’s just sooo descriptive and a little funny, too. And humor is a good option to make it stop. I mean, not always, but it can help.

  • “Geht’s dir nicht gut?”
    “Mein Gedankenkarussell dreht sich.”
    “Oh, Karussell… Kann ich eine Runde mitfahren?”
  • “Are you not feeling well?”
    “My thought carousel is turning.”
    “Oh, a merry-go-round … can I hop on for a round?”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And that’s it for today.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve heard of these terms before and also, if they exist in your language – English, French, Chinese, Igbo, Polish… whatever. I think Kopfkino and Gedankenkarussell are among the things that ALL humans share, so I’m curious if you also have such descriptive terms for it.
So yeah… maybe I’ll see you in the comment section, and if not have a great day and bis morgen :)


4.9 17 votes
Article Rating

German in your inbox

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.