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Schadenfreude: when simple envy isn’t enough.”

During the Cold War, there was the joke about the English speaker (by which I mean American english) feeling superior to the Russian who did not have a word for peaceful coexistence in his Russian vocabulary, and had had to borrow “detente”. The humor lies in the truth that neither does American English; though we use the French detente — not so much since the C.W. is past — for that same deficiency in our own tongue. And so it is, I suppose with Schadenfreude.¹

It is made up of two German words: Schaden, which means “harm” or “damage,” and Freude, which means “joy.” Hence Schadenfreude is the phenomenon of taking joy or satisfaction from the bad fortune of another. A self-satisfied sort of “Told ya so!” As I’m not an etymologist, the distinctions between schadenfreude and karma are subtle. But what of schadenfreude in Agincourt?

¹ Why did this remind me of Dankmar Adler, onetime partner of architect Louis Sullivan? Adler’s mother had died in childbirth and, so, was given the name Dankmar, meaning “sweet sorrow”. How sad to be reminded each day of the circumstance of your birth. And the painful joy it had brought to another.


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