May 15, 2007


From "School of Hard Knots" by Kevin Guilfoile:
My own knowledge [of tying knots] had always been like a rice paddy—acres wide and ankle-deep. In college I was an American studies major, qualified for little upon graduation but schadenfreude at the failures of "Jeopardy!" contestants. [Clifford] Ashly [author of "The Ashley Book of Knots"] had a love for knots and dedicated his life to cataloguing every single one of them. That was how a real man lived! That was commitment. I resolved to be his apprentice.
Kevin Guilfoile. "School of Hard Knots." The Funny Pages,
II True-Life Tales. New York Times Magazine. April 22, 2007. 38.


n. Malicious enjoyment of the misfortunes of others.

Also with lower-case initial letter. [German, from schaden harm + freude joy.]
Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Online

The word comes from the juxtaposition (collocation) of two German nouns, harm + joy. Thus, schaden + freude. So when saying the word, we enunciate it as if it were two words, with a sliver of a pause between them.

We pronounce the word [Shah'den-froi'duh] . . . with froi echoing "toy."

Shah' gets the primary stress, froi' a secondary stress. If we were shouting the word a long distance—say, mountain top to mountain top—we would hit the initial syllable Shah' a bit harder and longer than the other syllables, so that we would hear [SHA'.den-froi'.duh] or
[Shaaa'.den.froi'.duh]. In close conversation, however, the two stresses would be in tighter parity—with Sha' still remaing stronger than froi': [Sha'den-froi'duh].


Schadenfreude is an inclination many of us are none too eager to own up to. We're not talking here about a mere chuckle over a Will Farrow prat fall.

What we are talking about—scratch that—what I am talking about is the pleasure that long-time opponents of the second Bushie White House and of the recent Republican House and Senate feel [read enjoy] when one more malfeasant Republican or Bush lackey is exposed or enjailed (yes, enjailed is a word—as are injailed and engaoled—granted an old one, but a good one, worthy of renewal, first seen, (according to the OED) in 1631, and last seen I know not when or where, save on this page).

Twenty-four-seven cable news-programming helps schadenfreude maintain its wickedness within over time, enabling viewers to
• watch over, and over, and over again,
yet another Justice Department aide resign to avoid a subpoena; or
• hear Attorney General Gonzales asseverate reliably on cue, "I don't recall"; or
• watch black-brimmed Jack Abramhoff strut from court house to car after pleading guilty to corruption of a sneak of Republican public weasels, or . . .

—"Listen;" (to quote e. e. cummings on the sly) "there's a hell of a good universe [read cable news network] next door: let's go!"


From the OED: shadenfreude in use:

1852 What a fearful thing is it that any language should have a word expressive of the pleasure which men feel at the calamities of others; for the existence of the word bears testimony to the existence of the thing. And yet in more than one such a word is found... In the Greek , in the German, ‘Schadenfreude’.

German Emperor William— But the Schadenfreude, or malicious joy, of the French was premature.

Sometimes it [sc. Queen Victoria's smile] would be coyly negative, leading the speaker on, the lips slightly opened, with a suggestion of kindly fun, even of a little innocent Schadenfreude.

The particular sentiment described in German as ‘schadenfreude’ ‘pleasure over another's troubles’ (how characteristic it is that there should be no equivalent in any other language for this peculiarly Teutonic emotion!) makes but little appeal to the average Briton except where questions of age and of failing powers come into play.

There appears to be a certain amount of ‘Schadenfreude’ in Germany's failure to get the German-Soviet Pact ratified.

W. H. AUDEN, Age of Anxiety The Schadenfreude of cooks at keyholes.

1977 Solidarity or no solidarity, Widger was not wholly without Schadenfreude at seeing his informative colleague discomfited [1] for once.

[1] See Words Worthy's posting of
March 2, 2007, on discomfit.

Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Online

In no way does this writer encourage the Reader's listening to the whisperings of Shadenfreude. But if you do, dear Reader, at least you can now attach a proper name to your impropriety.