Sunday, January 25, 2009

On 'schadenfreude' and other big words.

You know how it is. You have never heard the word before. But then you hear someone use it. After that, your brain spots the same word in a hundred blog posts or news paper articles. You begin to wonder how you managed to survive in this world, without knowing that such a word existed.

One such word is “schadenfreude”. I remember coming across the term in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “ Fooled by Randomness”, that I read just a year back. He explains that it is a German word that means “the joy that humans can experience upon their rivals’ misfortune”. Once that had been planted into my sub-conscious brain, it kept popping out of pages.

Wikipedia explains that the word entered popular culture in 1991, making an appearance in an episode of The Simpsons. Since then, it has been used in several other shows, usually with an explanation of what the word meant. A play called “Avenue Q” even had a song by that name.

Today I can’t seem to read a blogpost without tripping over the word. Hell, there’s even a blog site that is called . Google Blogs throws up no less than 89000 entries. One of the bloggers says “I love that word, schadenfreude. Sounds foreign enough to give it a false air of erudition while describing one of the most common of human emotions” and goes on to file the post with the tag “schadenfreude”, in anticipation that more such posts will fall in that category. The venerable Amit Verma, in a post in Aug 2008, noted that a study that mosquitoes preferred men would make feminists feel immense schadenfreude.

Hmmm. I must find a context to fit that word in. Casually. Into a conversation or a blogpost.


Escape.... Great Escape said...

Wow, a German word that describes a very Dravidian emotion. Mueller would have been impressed.. and the Bhavan would have been called Arangam.

Anonymous said...

I too am going to find a place to casually drop it in :)

How about we should not have schadenfreude :)

dipali said...

Waiting for your post with the Big German Word!