German word of the day: Der Vorführeffekt

There are few better examples of the German language’s charming ability to condense complex concepts into a singular word than this amusing expression.

German word of the day: Der Vorführeffekt
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Have you ever been faced with a frozen computer screen, but then as soon as you explain the problem to somebody and ask for help, it magically comes back to life?

Or woken up to find all of the taps running stone cold, only for the hot water to return as soon as the plumber arrives?

Perhaps you’ve sat comfortably at your desk and happily flicked through your Powerpoint presentation, complete with state-of-the-art slide transitions and sophisticated embedded YouTube videos, but have then been faced with hundreds of blank stares as the whole thing freezes before your eyes as soon as you’re presenting to an audience?

“Der Vorführeffekt” describes this exact phenomenon.

READ ALSO: 21 phrases to help you get on in a German workplace

The word can be broken down into two parts, “Vorführ” taken from the verb “vorführen”, meaning to demonstrate or present, and “der Effekt”, the effect, and is loosely translatable as “when something suddenly behaves differently as soon as you try to show it to someone”.

And it seems not even those at the top of their field in engineering and design are immune, as evidenced at the grand unveiling of Tesla’s then latest model “Cybertruck” in November 2019, Allegedly “shatterproof” windows – well, shattered – during the vehicle’s debut, much to the amusement of the live audience.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Kruzat

So the next time it happens to you, a simple reference to “der Vorführeffekt” is all that is needed to explain away the embarrassing ordeal.


Ich schwöre dir, es war erst vor einer Sekunde kaputt … ist das der Vorführeffekt?

I swear it was broken just a second ago… is this the demonstration effect?

Es war so peinlich – ein echter Vorführeffekt – der Fernseher schaltete sich wieder ein, sobald er angekommen ist!

It was so embarrassing – a real demonstration effect – the TV turned back on as soon as he arrived!

Ich bin so nervös, morgen den Vortrag zu halten. Hoffentlich passiert der Demonstrationseffekt nicht!

I’m really nervous about giving the presentation tomorrow. Hopefully the demonstration effect won’t happen!


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German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.