The German language is famous for portmanteau words, none more popular than schadenfreude expressing the quite subtle emotion of joy in another’s misfortune, from schade meaning harm and freude meaning joy. But schadenfreude is not, to my mind, joy blasted from the rooftops, it is the secret little unworthy pang of pleasure we feel when our pompous boss chokes on his wine while holding forth at lunch, or our glamorous colleague comes back from the bathroom with her skirt caught up in her knickers. It is the also the way we feel when that moralising politician is caught with his pants down.

Here are a few more useful German words to add to your repertoire.

Kummerspeck (sorrow-fat)
The weight one puts on after after a period of overeating to console oneself for unhappiness.

Treppenwitz (stairs-joke)
The dazzlingly witty rejoinder you only come up with when you are on the way home.

Weltschmerz (world-pain)
The sad weary feeling one has after watching too many news programs.

And one where I will leave you to guess the meaning. It’s not a good thing…

19 thoughts on “Schadenfreude

  1. I haven’t learnt these words from Duolingo German so pleased to add them to my vocabulary. Sadly I find them all personally meaningful. Treppenwitz is extremely annoying, trying to save the rejoinder for another occasion doesn’t really work. Schnapsidee? Finally snapping after too many occasions of Treppenwitz?

  2. Nice to know that German has the word for “you thought of it too late,” i.e., “treppenwitz.” I was familiar with that concept as esprit de escalier. We need an English word for this! Schnapsidee is not quite the opposite (assuming that your treppenwitz is truly as great as you think it is). My German mother when I was an exchange student so many years ago liked her schnapps in the evening, but she spoke no English, and my German wasn’t good enough to know whether any of her comments were schnapsidee.

  3. Lewis Carroll has a lot to answer for, is all I can say…

    Now, when can be expect a post from Gert about kangaroo words? For Gert that would be entirely appropriate/apt, would it not? As a masculine/male person they appeal to me (we’ll pass on my rotund/round appearance) though such an obsession would be the destruction/ruin of me.

    More joeys to be found here:

    1. Mind boggling and a new concept to me. It think I prefer the anti kangaroo words: not so many of them and some element of humour. Could you possibly be known in some circles as Leonardo Melchior?

  4. Anti kangaroo words were new to me (I don’t think Reader’s Digest knew about them) but I agree, more scope here — possibly. The significance of Leonardo Melchior escapes me however.

      1. Ah, I see now! No, not me.

        I’m also dubious about some of his choices — evolve from devolve? Why not continuous from discontinuous? Or can from cannot? It could get really silly. And coven is related to convene, as is convent; in fact coven = convent, the process being seen in London’s Covent Garden, so one being the antithesis of the other is more apparent than real.

  5. Also the words “Warmduscher” (someone who likes to take a warm shower), “Weichei” (soft egg), “Waschlappen” (face cloth), or “Schlappschwanz” (floppy tail), all meaning something like wimp or patsy, are rather descriptive.

    1. Thank you Thomas. From one who really knows the language, not just on the fringes like me. My favourite is Schlappschwanz…all those sssh sounds add to the denigratory meaning

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