Hartmut Haberland hartmut at EMMA.RUC.DK
Wed May 7 06:08:54 UTC 1997

| One point I'd very much like to see straightened here: does or does not
| SCHADENFRA¨UDE necessarily imply or carry with itself the "righteousness"
| some of the commentators have introduced?
| I think not. Whether you think the person deserved it or not, however
| usual the case may be, I dare say it is irrelevant to the meaning of the
| word. It could as well refer to a very mean person.
| ME

Well, so far we only have the judgment of two three native or near-native
speakers on the list that this is the case. Since I am one of them, I uphold the view
unless somebody shows me that I'm wrong. I have discussed the matter with
other native speakers as well, and what usually happens is that the give
you a dictionary definition ("pleasure stemming from others' misfortune"),
then you give them some examples and ask, "Is this Schadenfreude?" and
then they say "not really", and the finally come up with this
"righteousness" or "satisfaction" component in the definition (or what
Deborah Ruuskanen calls the "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" emotion, i.e. what
children express when they makes those familiar and, as I gather, culturally
very wide-spread (I didn't say universal) sounds). The interesting thing is
that this component which I think is essential in German either is a newer
development, or has got lost in the process of calquing the word in other
languages. Is this because calques or loan-translations always tend to be
very literal? Or because German culture has changd since the times the word
was borrowed, restricting not the range of available emotions, but the range
of expressible emotions (in a socially acceptable way expressible, I mean)?
In the sense I mean that there was no need for a word meaning
"schadenfreude" (note the small s) any more, thus letting "Schadenfreude"
(with big s) take on the new meaning. (Finnish seems to travel with German
here, which in itself is interesting.)

For those who didn't follow all this, I'd like to refer back to Deborah's
banana peel example which in my opinion covers best what Schadenfreude
means. Note that if a car overtakes you at 250 kms/h (155 mph) on a German
motorway, and you see it crashed against a tree a few kilometers down the
road, then (my informants agree) you don't feel Schadenfreude, since the
"punishment" is just out of proportion. But if you see the car stopped by
the police, Schadenfreude seems to describe what you would feel.

Hartmut Haberland

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