Schadenfreude, Baby!

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Schadenfreude, Baby!

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.


About the Author:

My name is Tom Lennon and I'm a freelance writer who specialises in humour at the geekier end of the pop culture spectrum. I'm based in Birmingham, UK, and my work has recently appeared in BuzzFeed and Time Out.

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