Alex Massie

English Schadenfreude

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Everyone always says that there's no english equivalent of schadenfreude and I've always assumed, recklessly as it turns out, that since everyone always says this it might be true. Not so! Hats-off to Mr Ciaran J Breen of Celbridge, County Kildare for writing to the Irish Times to explain that:

Madam, – Patrick Skene Catling, in reviewing the book of the day, Splendour & Squalor , states that “Schadenfreude is a German word with no one-word English equivalent”.

But there is a one-word English equivalent. It is “epicaricacy” which means rejoicing at, taking fun in, or getting pleasure from the misfortune of others. The word is derived from the ancient Greek “epi” (meaning upon); “kharis” (meaning joy) and “kakos” (meaning evil).

The German language equivalent, Schadenfreude, is more commonly used as a loan word in English. – Yours, etc,.

I must say that this discovery has made for an unusually pleasant start to the day. 

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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