As I’ve mentioned elsewhere (and even elsethere), I’m into neologisms in a big way. When I get bored, I make up a new word. Last week I wasn’t bored, but someone invited me to make up a new word all the same. That’s never happened before.
The author Laura Lee invited me to take part in a neologism contest on her blog. She’s written a book called Schadenfreude, Baby! and as ‘schadenfreude’ is one of my all-time favourite German words, I thought I’d give it a go. Schadenfreude, in case you don’t already know, is usually defined as deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others. See, I told you it was a great word. Once you know what it means you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. According to Laura:
‘The kind of Schadenfreude many of us have been feeling in the wake of the financial crisis has a different quality and character than the celebrity downfall gazing of a year ago. It’s darker, blacker and angrier. Over at Psych Central John Grohol is talking about his emotions: “I find a strange melancholic amusement to learn that many of these investment banks’ CEOs and boards of directors — people being paid millions of dollars every year to purportedly know what their own companies are doing and how they make money — didn’t have a clue as to how deep their companies were into questionable financial practices.”
‘I’m looking for suggestions for a new word that encapsulates this “melancholic amusement”- Schadenfreude tinged with a touch of sadness and foreboding.’
The word I came up with to describe this strange mix of emotions was:
An emotion that combines joy in another’s misfortune tempered only by the overriding sense that the misfortune is going to have some serious and sad consequences.
See what I did there? I created a new word by amputating two letters from a preexisting one. Nifty, eh?
Believe it or not, I won the contest.
Thanks for the good news, Laura. I look forward to reading your book.