Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Winning Word: SADENFREUDE

Sadenfreude n. 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.

Seeing fat cats laid low has always produced an emotion the Germans call Schadenfreude, defined in English as "joy in another's misfortune." I should know, I wrote a book on the subject, Schadenfreude, Baby! published by Lyons Press.

The past few weeks have been a good time for Schadenfreude watchers. If you have a Google alert set to "Schadenfreude" you have seen it go crazy recently with observers of all stripes expressing something other than empathy for failed investment bankers. But it's hard to feel too gleeful. The emotion we're experiencing is different than our old school Schadenfreude over Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton.

“There would be something comical, even pleasurable, in watching the frenetic agitation of the banking world”, wrote Laurent Joffrin, editor of LibĂ©ration newspaper, “if millions of jobs were not at stake, not to mention the economic balance of the planet.”

We need a new word to describe the mix of emotions we're feeling which is why I called for submissions from the general public on my blog

The winning word was submitted by Tom Lennon of England who coined "Sadenfreude: Taking pleasure from others misfortune while feeling rather sad about it."

Other entries included karmaglee; desletsenium, a mix of three different latin terms for a regretful feeling of Schadenfreude; Eupheria or Schadenfreude tinged with fear of impending financial doom; trickledownpathoshumorism, and Himmeldonnerwetter, "brought to you by the same folks that gave you schadenfreude!"

Related neologisms submitted included "neoconomitus -- the shared malaise that comes from failed neoconservative economic policies and practices;" "Har-de-harbinger, Something that foreshadows an ominous-yet-funny event;" and "Fucosthriveudie-meaning financial officers of a company will always thrive, even if those they have scammed or let down financially die."

Congratulations Tom on your winning submission. Although the contest is now closed, please feel free to keep posting your words and suggestions. I've enjoyed your creativity.