Another attack of “New Word Syndrome” recently: I was reading Neil Peart’s book Traveling Music, where I came across:

When I first began to encounter the German word schadenfreude, which I now know refers to that ignoble human tendency to take pleasure in another’s misfortune, I couldn’t find the compound word in my little German dictionary. I tried to decipher its meaning by looking up the component words, and from schaden and freude I worked out my own home-made translation of “tarnished joy,” interpreting it to mean something predominantly good that also included a dark shadow as its necessary component.

Within a few days, my A Word A Day email showed up with the same word, calling it “pleasure derived from others’ misfortunes.” Then, a few days after that, Fred Thompsen (as D.A. Arthur Branch) on Law and Order puzzled out the implications of a case saying, “We’ll be the poster children for schadenfreude.” I’m not sure why he said that, except that he was part of the New Word Syndrome syndicate assigned to finally introduce this new word into my purview. Isn’t that cool?

PatrickWords10/03/04 5 comments


David • 10/21/04 7:16 PM:

I was just reading an article on and I had my first encounter with “schadenfreude”. Very cool indeed. Here’s the sentence, from an article titled, “The O’Reilly Factor for Lesbians.”

What’s followed ever since is an orgy of schadenfreude and hypocrisy almost entertaining enough to take your mind off Iraq (as the Bush-Cheney campaign hopes it will).

Patrick • 10/23/04 12:18 PM:

I just want to say: isn’t it awesome when you discover new words? And it’s an essentially inexhaustible fountain. And I love having Maddenation here to record the discoveries and share them.

Dave: why no link to the article?

David • 10/26/04 6:24 PM:

Mostly because of the content of the article. And it’s nytimes - so it is only good for a week anyway.

Yes, it is awesome to discover new words.

David • 01/24/06 11:06 PM:

So I followed Dad’s link to the laughter evolution article. It was on a website from Seed Magazine: Science is Culture. Kinda cool, I thought. I had never heard of it before. I looked around and found a neato graphic thingy on the top left, with little colored balls that move.

I clicked on it and it jumped to Jonathan Harris’ Phylotaxis. There I found a link to something titled, Sideffects: This is Your Brain on Schadenfreude. I clicked on the phylotaxis page (you can’t directly link there, I guess because it’s all in flash). I then was redirted to that NYTimes article (link above).

Then, I just walked out to family room, and we had, for some reason, gotten today’s New York Times delivered to us (we’re not subscribers). And since today is Tuesday, the paper had the coolest section - the Science Times - which fantastically enough, has the very article.

I guess I have to read it now. Quite amazing. This kind of stuff happens to me practically everyday. What does it all mean?

Let’s find out!

David • 01/24/06 11:57 PM:

Jonathan Harris offers an excellent explanation of what his phylotaxis site is all about - here at

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