It’s been awhile since I’ve made fun of a German word, but I suppose it’s as good a time now as any to dig further into this gold mine. 😛
I think that, for the majority of English speakers, the word schadenfreude has long entered their vocabulary.
This word, from the similar German word Schadenfreude*, means something like the enjoyment derived from observing someone else’s misfortune. Anyone who’s ever seen TV shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos or Tosh.0 will know exactly what this word means.
*Etymology: Schaden (damage or harm) + Freude (joy)
Few will know, however, that Schadenfreude actually also has a polar opposite cousin: Fremdscham**.
Google Translate gives Fremdscham the definition in English as foreign Cham, but don’t you believe it for one second! This word actually means the embarrassment that one feels at watching someone else embarrass themselves. Complicated, right? And, I’ll have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever run into this situation before (not one that I recall anyway). How did it ever get turned into a word?
**Etymology: Fremd (foreign or unrelated) + Scham (shame)
You may also be interested to know that Fremdscham has further spawned a related verb: fremdschämen*** – to feel ashamed for someone else who has done something embarassing.
***Etymology: Fremd (foreign or unrelated) + schämen (to feel ashamed)
Those who are adventurous with their word compounds, however, should shy away from the combination of Scham (shame) + Entzündung (inflammation). The resulting word will probably not mean what you think it should mean.
Want to read more about other uncommon words? 🙂 See the Interesting Words page.