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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Schadenfreude is a German word meaning to find amusement in the misfortune of others. It is the compound word of Schaden, the German word for damage or harm, and Freude, the German word for joy. Schaden comes from the Middle High German schade meaning unfortunate or shame, which itself comes from the Old High German scado meaning scathe. Freude derives from the Old High German frewida which is also a cognate of the Old English word frith meaning freedom and peace. This trend can be generalized as some trauma being juxtaposed with happiness, with Schadenfreude specifically observing the trauma in someone else. Although it can be as equally malicious as sadism, Schadenfreude pertains to simple satisfaction or delight rather than brutal pleasure.
The English language has no specific translation for Schadenfreude, but the idea is still expressed hence its use as a loanword. It is generally considered an undesired quality, even if it is part of human nature.

"Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him." (Proverbs 24:17–18, King James Version)

Low self-esteem is closely affiliated with feelings of Schadenfreude as one creates a better but false self-image in comparison to others' poor circumstance. It is also fundamental to most comedy, explaining why someone slipping on a banana peel is so funny and how stupidity, irony, and simple bad luck are enjoyable to witness. This makes Schadenfreude a conflicting condition where results can be positive for a particular individual but detrimental for whoever is the cause. Empathy, which is a positive characteristic despite making one feel poor, is an antonym of Schadenfreude, which is a negative characteristic despite giving pleasure, showing how compassion is valued over superficial contentment.

Taming the Donkey by Eduardo Zacois y Zabala (1868)


Schadenfreude — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. November 18, 2012.

Schadenfreude Mariam Webster Dictionary. November 18, 2012.

Sorrow So Sweet: A Guilty Pleasure In Another's Woe — New York Time. November 18, 2012.

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