TITLE: The Complement of Schadenfreude
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: February 28, 2008 7:10 PM
Does it have a name?
Of course, Schadenfreude itself doesn't really have a name
in English. It is a German word that means roughly
delight in another person's misfortune.
(However, I see that
offers one, the 300+-year-old, apparently abandoned
Last semester, a colleague described what struck me as the
complement of Schadenfreude. He reported that one of our
close friends, a retired professor here, expressed a strong
unhappiness or distaste for faculty who succeeded in publishing
academic papers. This matters to him because he is one of
those folks. His friend came to the university in a different
era, when we were a teacher's college without any pretension
to being a comprehensive university. The new faculty who
publish and talk about their research, she said, are "just
showing off". Their success caused her pain, even if they
didn't brag about their success.
This is not the opposite of Schadenfreude. That is happiness
in another's good fortune, which Wikipedia tells us matches
the Buddhist concept of mudita. What our friend feels inverts
both the emotion and the trigger.
I don't think that her condition corresponds to envy. When
someone is envious, they want what someone else has. Our
friend doesn't want what the others have; she is saddened,
almost angered, that others have it. No one should.
The closest concept I can think of is "sour grapes", a
one of Aesop's beloved fables.
But in this story, the fox does want the grapes,
and professes to despise them only when he can't reach them.
I believe that our friend really doesn't want the success
of research; she earnestly believes that our mission is to
teach, not publish, and that energy spent doing research is
energy misspent. And that makes her feel bad.
When my colleague told me his story, I joked that the name
for this condition should be freudenschade.
I proposed this even though I know a little German and know
how non-sensical it is. But it seemed fun. Sadly, I wasn't
the first person to coin the word... Google tells me that
one other person
has. You may be tempted to say that I feel freudenschade
that someone else coined the term "freudenschade" first, but
I don't. What I feel is envy!
The particular story that led to my discussion is almost
beside the point. I'm on a mission that has moved beyond
it. I am not aware of a German word for the complement of
Schadenfreude. Nor am I aware of an English word for it. Is
there a word for it anywhere, in English, German, or some
I'm curious... Perhaps the Lazyweb can help me.