Monday, March 19, 2012

Equivel* (for Equival*)

While visiting family out of town over the weekend, I noticed an interesting typo in the local newspaper: Schandenfreude for schadenfreude. (This German word is neatly defined as "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.") I was pretty pleased with the find, but disappointed not to discover any further examples in OhioLINK or WorldCat later on. This, of course, was rather as expected (it's an unusual word, with only 37/316 cases correctly spelled); nevertheless its total absence from these two databases denied me that mild sense of schadenfreude I tend to experience whenever I find the human errors I'm so eagerly seeking. So in search of a synonym of sorts, something I could seek and find and rejoice in the exposure of, I eventually concluded that the common wisdom was correct: there is no equivalent of schadenfreude in English. (Or rather that the word itself is already an English "loanword.") Some have suggested the debatable term epicaricacy; another good, if somewhat inexact, analogue might be "gloating." According to Wikipedia: "The Buddhist concept of mudita, 'sympathetic joy' or 'happiness in another's good fortune,' is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude. Alternatively, envy, which is unhappiness in another's good fortune, could be considered the counterpart of schadenfreude. Completing the quartet is 'unhappiness at another's misfortune,' which may be termed sympathy, pity, or compassion." I also like this "transposed variant": Freudenschade, which means "sorrow at another person's success." There were five cases of Equivel* (for equival*) in OhioLINK and 88 in WorldCat. One of the five in the former, however, was actually a different typo, a misspelling of the name Laura Esquivel, author of the book Like Water for Chocolate. Since I didn't get my endorphin hit from lots of hits on Schandenfreude, I might have to resort to a bit of chocolate instead; I believe they're roughly equivalent. Good luck finding some typos out there yourself today, and if you do, try not to gloat too much.

Illustration from the pulp magazine The Spider , October 1933, vol. 1, no. 1, for the story The Spider Strikes by R. T. M. Scott, captioned: "The face she had seen was cruel and repulsive—like the face of a man who gloated over some cruel and terrible act.")

Carol Reid

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