‘Schadenfreude’ Searches in Merriam-Webster Dictionary Up 30,500% Following Trump Covid-19 Disclosure

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By Paul Riegler on 4 October 2020
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Following the announcement by President Trump that he and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus, the Merriam-Webster dictionary said that the word “Schadenfreude” was the “top lookup” by a substantial margin.

Schadenfreude, a German loanword that came into English in the mid-19th century, means the experience of pleasure or or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles and failures of another.

The word is a portmanteau of “Schaden” (“damage”) and “Freude” (“joy”).

Searches for the word in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary spiked by 30,500%, the company reported on its website.

The word appeared in headlines both in German and in English across the globe.

“President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection draws international sympathy and a degree of Schadenfreude,” a headline in the newspaper USA Today read.

“The Russian president joined a list of world leaders expressing sympathy and concern and some thinly-veiled Schadenfreude, in light of Trump’s repeated downplaying of the pandemic and shoot-from-the-hip approach to the science surrounding it,” the Chicago Tribune reported in a story about the outbreak in the White House.

There’s even a song about Schadenfreude, entitled, appropriately enough, “Schadenfreude,” from the Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q.”  Schadenfreude means “happiness in the misfortune of others,” the character Gary Coleman explains to another character, Nicky.

“Right now you are down and out, and feeling really crappy. And when I see how sad you are, it sort of makes me happy,” the Gary Coleman character sings.

The reaction to Trump’s disclosure in Germany, home of the word, was not very different.

“Es wirkt, als würde die Welt nach gerechten Regeln funktionieren” (“It looks like the world works by fair rules”) read a headline in Der Spiegel.

“We feel Schadenfreude when misfortune happens to someone we might judge superior,” said Dr. Lea Boecker of the Universität Lüneburg explained in that article.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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