Who knew?

Part of my daily routine is to check the Word-of-the-Day from Merriam-Webster. I guess I have a reasonable vocabulary as most often I already know the meaning of the word, but the reason I check in daily is to read about the etymology of the word, Fascinating stuff. As you might expect lots of words come to us from Latin and became cognates in spoken English. Some came from Middle French and of course, especially here in the United States we adopt words from other languages when it seems beneficial to do so. Think “burrito”…., the food, …not the diminutive for burro.In today’s edition there was a link to another Merriam-Webster article: “Schadenfreude and Other German Words Without Translation: Accept No Substitutes.”  I could only think of a few non-food words that have been adopted with out translation, for example, “kindergarten,” “doppelganger,” but was hard pressed to think of another. When I read the article, the word “flak” was included… OK, I knew that one. I was also familiar with poltergeist of cinematic fame and its contribution to the expression: “They’re heeeeeeeere.”

Then I came across a word which I had heard, but had heard in different contexts without enough commonality to discern a meaning. Why didn’t I ask about the meaning? In one instance I thought the person rather sesquipedalian (given to using overly long words especially when more than adequate and common words are available …. of course using sesquipedalian is in itself kinda’ unnecessary…anyway). Also, I had some doubts that the word was used correctly. The person had a history.

The word was schadenfreude, a noun that refers to the joy you might feel at another person’s pain. It’s a compound of the German noun schaden, which means “damage,” and freude, which means “joy.”  You know the person who drives like a maniac on the interstate and causes you to think “I hope they get pulled over by the highway patrol?” Then later you see them pulled over, a state trooper’s vehicle light flashing, and all the rest. You know that feeling? It is schadenfreude.

Etymology of words looks to the origin of words – schadenfreude appeared in the 1700s in German stories for children. Less clear when it began to be used in English although clearly popular among academia before 1990. In 1991 it began to be more popularly used thanks to the television show “The Simpsons.”  The Merriam Webster article reports, “In an episode that aired in October, 1991, Lisa explains what schadenfreude is to Homer, who is gloating at his neighbor’s failure. “Boy,” he marvels, “those Germans have a word for everything.” Who knew?

May your day be blessed and filled with freude and try not to cause any schaden. And certainly do not be sesquipedalian.

1 thought on “Who knew?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.