Word of The Week



Today’s Word: schadenfreude

Pronunciation: [‘shahd-n-froi-dê]

Definition 1: Mischief-joy, pleasure in the misfortune of others.

Usage 1: This word is so typically German, that there is little to be done with it. It doesn’t even double as its own adjective felicitously. Just keep in mind that “sh” in German is spelled “sch” and that the vowels in “Freude” are pronounced like “Freud.”

Suggested usage: We suggest avoidance this word and the experience that accompanies it. Schadenfreude is a base substitute for pity, much more the human reaction to the misfortune of others. However, the driver of an old Ford pickup might get a twinge of schadenfreude at the sight of two Mercedes colliding. And if someone fell and broke their arm in the process of robbing your house, a modest touch of schadenfreude should do little damage to the soul.

Etymology: German schaden “to hurt” + Freude “joy.” “Schaden” comes from Old High German “skado,” which also devolved into English scathe “harm, hurt” via Old Norse “skaða.” “Freude” comes from Old High German “frewida,” akin to the same fro “happy” found in contemporary German fröhlich “happy.” Greek is one of the few other Indo-European languages with a native word expressing this unsavory emotional reaction: epichairekakia from epi- “on, over” + chair- “enjoy” + kakia “hurt, vice.” The Dutch equivalent is “leedvermaak” from leed “pain, sorrow” + vermaak “enjoyment” and in Swedish it is “skadeglädje.” (We owe a double debt of gratitude for today’s word to Trevor Wilcock of Halifax, England and Margot Fraser.)


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