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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Schadenfreude versus epicaricacy

We used to say a lot of other things but losing the war meant losing the right to say them


Mark Twain once said, "My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years."

In fact, he probably said it more than once, because his writing is full with allusions to the difficulties of learning German. Here are some:

"In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language."

"Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German."

"I'd rather decline two German beers than one German adjective."

And there's plenty more in his book "A Tramp Abroad" in Appendix D, "The Awful German Language", although I wonder if he really would've preferred to use the word 'epicaricacy' instead of 'Schadenfreude".

I mean, no one knows the word 'epicaricacy', so everyone would think you're a pretentious fool if you even tried to pronounce it. On the other hand, 'Schadenfreude' just rolls off the tongue and has the extra benefit of poking fun at the Germans. After all, who else could have a word like Schadenfreude?

There's no need to convince me. I served my articles in a business with the name of 'Feuerversicherungsaktiengesellschaft' which is not so much a word as an alphabetical procession. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?