Germany has contributed voluminous beauty to world culture.
Listen to the great German classical composers like Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven. Taste the malty beers, the decadent sausages, and the hedonistic joys of Oktoberfest. Think with some of the greatest philosophers such as Leibniz, Kant, or Hegel.
Then consider the German language. At times, not necessarily the gentlest sounding diction for the tenth most spoken language in the world. It tends toward throatiness. Certain words are heavy and thick with guttural sounds reminiscent of snarling, buzzing, and/or throat-clearing.
This video on YouTube humorously shows how words sound so bright when spoken in the other romance languages while perhaps sounding a little harsher in German.
Obviously, German friends, the joke is grob übertrieben and stereotyped. It is not reflective of your entire language. And, of course, I’m obliged to say that because everyone knows Germans have no fucking sense of humor whatsoever.
Although this joke floats around the Interwebs and is hysterical, hopefully likewise to Germans…
Germans have always had a fascinating world view that shapes the meaning of some rather awesome words, too. For example,
- Zechpreller – closest concept in English is a person who performs a dine and ditch or a chew and screw. They leave the restaurant after eating without paying their bill. Some college friends may recall a night at Sal’s when I left to pee, and upon return, the table was empty, sticking me with the tab. You know who you are. Dicks.
- Verschlimmbesserung – English equivalent would be attempting to improve something only to make it worse. Next time hubby tries to rewire the basement, ending in a full-house power outage, perhaps a small electrical fire, you now have a new choice word that sounds like cussing. Dickhead or Shitbird falls on deaf ears when used a lot. They’ll never forget this one.
- Warmduscher – English equivalent is comparable to a wimp or a pantywaist. This person is a bit of a pussy and will not step out of their comfort zones. Reminds of a time in 1990 when I accompanied our restaurant’s pastry chef from Montauk to NY City to get ‘flour’ at midnight. By flour, he meant cocaine. As he grabbed a handgun and left the SUV, I cowered on the backseat floor until he concluded his dealings unscathed.
But my favorite German concept word is Schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude is the concept of malicious pleasure derived by one person from the misfortune of another person. Wicked, right? Love it. It literally translates to ‘harm-joy.’ Delicious. In English, I like to think of it as gloating – on Machiavellian steroids.
Not to be confused with sadism, Schadenfreude is pleasure in the observation of someone’s pain whereas sadism is pleasure in the infliction of pain on others. On a still finer note, Schadenfreude insists the injured party deserved the pain; some cosmic justice meted out.
To further elucidate Schadenfreude, I have concocted five commonplace scenarios, and how you can increase the kinky pleasure depending on the level of harm inflicted. I labeled those consequence as GOOD, BETTER, and BEST.
Schadenfreude #1. A redneck in a rusted Ford F-150 cranking Sweet Home Alabama cuts you off on the highway, then speeds off, flipping you the bird, resplendent in their own mulleted douchery.
- GOOD. You pass him a few miles up the road, pulled over by the police for speeding, arms waving, arguing with the cop that he never speeds. You chortle to yourself at how just the universe can be sometimes.
- BETTER. You pass him a few miles up the road, pulled over onto the median, flames and thick black smoke billowing from his engine. With panicked, flailing arms, he tries to flag you down for help, but you just keep on keeping on. Was his mullet on fire? Who cares? You’re a fucking boss and this highway is your bitch.
- BEST. As you drive down a hill to a severe curve in the road, you can see a gas tanker jackknifed across the highway on a bridge. Roll Tide does not seem to notice until too late. Slamming on his brakes, he plows full throttle into the tanker, causing a massive explosion, collapsing the bridge and its occupants to flaming death in the canyon below. About to dial 911, you set your phone back down on the passenger seat and hug yourself warmly.
Schadenfreude #2. The Sunday paper has a headline about yet another pedophile priest abusing young altar boys for over forty years, and the Catholic Church had hidden the details until now. Wait. This was your parish priest. The one who baptized your kids. The one your sons had served as altar boys. Oh no.
- GOOD. The Vatican hid the perv away in a dank papal hidey-hole, not far from the remaining gnostic Scriptures the church edited out of the original bible. He weeps as he reads the Gospel of Reg, left alone in the damp dark, his guilty thoughts collapsing his miscreant mind into madness. This image makes you grin outwardly.
- BETTER. The priest dies slowly from pancreatic cancer in a hospice facility, where Nurse Betty, whose son just disclosed the bastard molested him, pretends to give the rotting kiddie fucker his morphine, keeping it instead for her own opioid addiction. Her glassy eyes smile, as his cries of agony echo through the halls.
- BEST. Justice finally served, the church miraculously cooperates in prosecuting him, and the convicted shitbag goes to prison. Tiny Terrence, and his gang of convicted felons, treat Father Fuckface to a daily taste of his own medicine, which is one dose of beating, two doses of fellatio, and ten doses of anal rape. They don’t let him die or kill himself, despite his pleas. His agony continues to this day. You wonder how much worse hell could be. Then take a nap.
Schadenfreude #3. Your three-year romance ends when you discover your boyfriend, Crispin, is a serial cheater. Turns out, his philandering knows no limits. That asshole has been living off your charity, squatting in your apartment, delivering pizzas between bong hits, playing video games, and fat-shaming you when you know you look fly. Plus, what a dickwad name!
- GOOD. Crispin put a baby in Cinnamon’s belly. ‘Cinn’ is a stripper at a truck stop ‘rub-n-tug’ joint that Crispin and his boys like to frequent. Apparently, his seed found purchase during some productive lap dancing. Cinn wants the child and expects support from Crispin. You wish her luck as you gleefully throw his shit off the balcony into the street.
- BETTER. Crispin contracts syphilis from Cinnamon. He is starting to go blind, challenged to advance his career due to driving restrictions. He calls you every night, sobbing in terror, from his new home on his bro, Clint’s, couch. Much like the nihilist German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, Crispy knows that tertiary syphilis symptoms of paresis and mental collapse are imminent, and he has no medical insurance. Your heart heals daily.
- BEST. Crispin and Cinn try to make it work. Cinn gets Covid and dies, losing the baby in the process. Crispin catches Covid from Cinn but is asymptomatic, spreading the plague throughout the seedy underbelly of strip clubs and other sordid establishments, which in turn spreads throughout the massive population of johns in the metro area, which in turns spreads to their friends and family. Decimating an entire city for generations, the losses in wealth and life are incalculable. Uhhh. You shake your head. That may be too far. The syphilis is enough.
Schadenfreude #4. Un-costumed ten-year old Timmy saunters onto your front porch on Halloween, rings the doorbell, and holds out his bag without even saying Trick or Treat, then proceeds to complain he doesn’t like coconut when you reward his ill-mannered behavior (and attire) with delectable Mounds candy bars.
- GOOD. You point and laugh at the little prick when he falls off the porch in the dark, flesh shredded in your rose bushes. Closing the door slowly, savoring his tears, you turn off the front light.
- BETTER. While pruning your rosebushes the next day, your neighbor, Wanda, asks if you had heard from Timmy’s mom. Timmy went to the hospital last night when he had anaphylaxis after consuming candy containing tree nuts. Coconut is a tree nut. You blush wickedly.
- BEST. As the little shit reaches the end of your driveway, he is mowed down by a speeding delivery truck who is running late due to longer than normal delivery delays caused by Covid. The driver, who knew he should have fixed that damn broken headlight after his cheating lover, Crispin, left him, cradles the boy in his arms crying out, “Where is the justice, god? Why?” You sigh, knowing god is in his heaven, and all is right with the world.
Schadenfreude #5. Joe Biden is so tired of Donald Trump making him look creepy. A little shoulder rubbing, finger licking, and pelvic grinding is fun, and the ladies really seem to dig it, man.
- GOOD. Trump loses the 2020 election in a landslide victory to Biden. Joe thumbs his nose at Trump in victory, then puts his hand down his pants to adjust his erection. Popularity makes him happy.
- BETTER. Trump has a Peter Griffin-esque stroke from gluttonously eating thirty consecutive hamburgers and gets disqualified from running. Mike Pence, burdened by the crucible of his complicity in perpetuating lies and evildoing, returns home to Mother’s bosom, never to be seen again. Joe licks a baby.
- BEST. Trump reveals himself to be the true Antichrist, Jesus returns, and an epic Armageddon ensues. After vanquishing Trump to eternal damnation and returning the earth to its original tranquil Garden of Eden lushness, Joe Biden poses for a photo op with Jesus… and tries to finger his ass.
These different scenarios evoke varying levels of Schadenfreude. Could you feel it?
Vengeful thinking is liberating. Visualizing perilous consequences and taking joy in that is a coping mechanism that helps us resolve our feelings of hostility internally versus expressing them externally. It is a psychological “big red button,” stopping our lowest impulses.
Schadenfreude prevents us from picking up an AR-15 and shooting up a concert because those other people could afford the tickets, while we can barely make ends meet supporting our loser boyfriends or dealing with our entitled neighbors or bickering over partisan politics.
At the end of the day, Schadenfreude illustrates our own insecurities. We have failed to self-actualize, and it is our own bullshit and low self-worth that allows us to revel in the failures of others. It passive-aggressively prevents us from looking inward at our personal shortcomings. And by being a snarky dick, stalls our own personal development.
Ouch. Truth hurts.
I mentioned early in this piece that Germans have no sense of humor. Untrue. German humor is deeply sarcastic, biting, and dour. Schadenfreude, in that sense, is the highest form of German art – pure comedy.
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