The average American is like Homer Simpson

The Simpsons and the German word Schadenfreude

German has been a bit fashionable on social networks for a few years now. Anyone who has been on Facebook a little longer will regularly receive lists of very special German words in their timeline.

They are called “18 Weird German Words You Won’t Believe Exist”, “12 German words you won’t find in English” or “24 Words That Are Better In German”. Classic like World Pain, Dreikäsehigh and Wanderlust are included, but also newer creations like Sissy, ass antlers and Shadow parker. The latter could also be of interest to Homer Simpson if he were in the mood to expand his vocabulary again.

The last time he showed such Germanistic ambitions it had consequences for the entire English language. In an episode of The Simspons, which aired in October 1991, Homer was delighted again that something went wrong with his neighbor Ned Flanders. Thereupon his daughter Lisa explains to him that there is an extra expression in German for this feeling, namely malicious joy. Homer is enthusiastic: "Boy, boy, these Germans have a word for everything."

Boy, boy, these Germans have a word for everything.
Homer Simpson

The lexicographers from the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary”, who have now traced the path of the German term into the English language (in a list entitled “8 Truly Untranslatable German Words”) write: “After this episode we were able to achieve a constant increase in written use of the word malicious joy watch in English. "

In German, the word has existed since the middle of the 18th century. From the beginning it often has a reproachful overtone. Goethe explains that “the comedy always presupposes or arouses some malicious joy in the audience”. And in Friedrich Schiller's “Bride of Messina”, Princess Donna Isabella advises her warring sons: “Get to know this gender, the heartlessly wrong one! The schadenfreude is what makes them avenge your happiness, your greatness. "

That peculiar Teutonic emotion

This negative connotation takes off malicious joy