Are you nodding off at your desk, even after three cups of coffee? Can’t get out of bed in the mornings? Are you always late and missing opportunities? Sounds like you might be a Schlafmütze!
Directly translated, this German word means “nightcap”, but the closest English equivalent of its meaning would be a “sleepy head” or a “zombie”.
In modern German language, a Schlafmütze usually refers to a person who is always tired, lazy and slow, spaced out and late all the time or unable to roll out of bed. But in the olden days, this word simply defined the nightcap that people wore to bed to keep warm. Before central heating was available, homes in northern Europe were often very cold – especially in the winter. To keep warm, Europeans would wear nightcaps when they went to sleep. Women usually wrapped a long piece of cloth around their heads, while men had more pointed caps with a long tip that could sometimes be used as a scarf.
Due to the availability of central heating, nightcaps are no longer used, but paintings, books and movies about the pre-industrial days often depict people wearing them in the comfort of their homes.
In addition to sleepwear, nightcaps were used throughout the 19th century to secure bandages that were applied to head injuries.
But ever since the 18th century, the word Schlafmütze has also been used to define a sleepy or lazy person. Someone who sleeps in until noon every day would be considered a Schlafmütze. And even if you sleep late just once, you might inherit the title by a friend or relative who rolls their eyes at your habits. So get out of bed and make sure you’re not a Schlafmütze! After all, there’s probably plenty of things you could do instead.
By Nicole Glass, German Embassy