It’s one of those splendid German borrow-words we can’t use in real life, due to pronunciation insecurities (and the fear of sounding like Frasier Crane). Schaden=harm + Freude= joy. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others explains a lot of the stories we love to hear, read, tell and retell.
I came home super late from my moms’ group dinner on the weekend, and realized the next day that I’d been utterly enchanted by all the parenting horror stories. For seven years I’ve been telling myself my friendship with these eight women is about mutual support. But let’s face it: my delight over dinner at hearing about nightly bed-wetting, fussy eating and foreign objects lodged in nasal cavities was pure, unadulterated schadenfreude.
It could be worse, schadenfreude assures us. Which of us hasn’t felt comforted when someone tops our agonized confession? Who amongst us doesn’t secretly thrill to news coverage of a (foreign) natural disaster, a good divorce saga or job-loss yarn? It’s not malicious, it’s just human nature.
What else can you call it when Toronto Raptors fans out-and-out celebrated the defeat of Chris Bosh’s new team? “What goes around comes around,” I heard one guy crowing on the radio. “Toronto can take solace in the fact that he’s not the big man down there he was up here.” The video below focuses on Dallas’s victory, but its Youtube title points up the reason it’s gone viral: schadenfreude!