George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin ocls at IPA.NET
Tue May 6 13:52:20 UTC 1997

Thanks to Deborah, who sent me two example of "shadenfraude" with
*contexts*, I think perhaps I now understand the word. On the other hand,
I've discovered that the problem is not just my weak German, but also my
incomplete inventory of emotional responses (or some such thing -- anybody
have a word for that?) I guess my difficulty is with the "joy" component in
the definitions.  Deborah suggested ( I'm summarizing) that if someone were
walking with you and doing a rant about how stupid people are who enjoy
slapstick and who think slipping on banana peels is funny, etc., and then
that person, perhaps at the peak of his or her intolerant elitist
carrying-on, were to slip on a banana peel, you might feel schadenfraude. I
can well imagine that in such a context I would feel something like this:
"Given the way you were tempting fate, I am not surprised that you got
smacked a tad by Providence, and it may be a good thing you did -- might
could be, you'll learn from it." No word for that in English, either, you
perceive -- but I'm certain that the word for it isn't schadenfraude. It's
awkward for me to say that I don't feel able to take joy in someone else's
misfortune, even if well-deserved -- it makes me sound like some sort of
stiff-necked fanatic. Nevertheless, the truth is that I can't imagine it.

The longer this discussion -- a very useful discussion -- goes on, the less
confidence I have in the concept of a Universal Translator.


PS: Am I the only person who is getting two copies of every Funknet
message? Is it a penalty for overtalkativeness, maybe?

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