Yesterday’s WSJ has an enjoyable column by Ben Cohen describing a word, or quasi-word, or pseudo-word, that was new to me:
There are few words in any language as fun to say as schadenfreude.
Its etymology is easy to understand. Schadenfreude, the pleasure in someone else’s pain, comes from the German words for those exact emotions.
But people can also take pain in someone else’s pleasure. Why isn’t there a word for that?
It turns out there is. Scholars have finally found a linguistic relative of schadenfreude, and it sounds like another German portmanteau: gluckschmerz.
Except it isn’t.
“It’s not an actual word in the German language,” says University of Kentucky psychologist Richard Smith. “You won’t find it in any German dictionary.”
It turns out that it’s sort of existed—in English, not German—for three decades, and there’s a kicker at the end that I’ll let you discover for yourself. Once upon a time I would have been irritated at the attempt to foist yet another cutesy non-word on the long-suffering English language, which has plenty of actual resources with which to describe emotions, but I’ve mellowed, and if people enjoy this sort of thing, more power to them, may they have—as they don’t say in German—Wortschatzfälschungfreude. (Thanks, Bruce!)