Schadenfreude is the best word ever

I used to keep a sticky note at my desk called “Words I Hate.” These were words that I would run across in the course of my editing that I, well, hated. They were usually either awkward, clich├ęd, or bureaucratic. It was nothing personal. Some of the words, in isolation, were probably just fine. Here are a few I remember: due to the fact that; fled on foot; recently; found (as in: He found himself enjoying opera); every (noun’s) nightmare; died doing what he/she loved; deliverable; efficiencies (corporate usage, not the dwellings, which can be quite charming); mouthfeel.

But I’m not interested in hating anymore. I’m looking forward to a more positive word world. Especially after keeping up with this guy, Ted McCagg, who declared diphthong to be the Best Word Ever in a Final Four bracket-style competition. Diphthong won out over gherkin, by the way. Some really beautiful and wonderful words in the competition, including kerfuffle, detritus, canoodle. All very fine words. I’m also a fan of the words fisticuffs, umami, milquetoast (which is unrelated to milk).

But if I had run the word competition, I would have done anything I could to get a different word at the top of the heap. Of course I’m talking about the actual very best word ever: schadenfreude. Not only does this word have all the requisite sounds that make a word fun to read and say, its meaning is also sublime. That there’s even a word at all to describe the feeling of joy one gets at the misfortune of others is seriously beautiful. I experience schadenfreude every time a bullfighter gets beaten up by the bull. Wrong, I know. Still. Schadenfreude.

So nothing against diphthong, but schadenfreude is the clear winner here. Sorry, Ted.

Careful, buddy. The bull never wins, but he sometimes puts up a good fight.

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