from The Wall Street Journal, Schadenfreude Is in the Zeitgeist, but Is There an Opposite Term?
Others, like schadenfreude, cross continents in mysterious ways. It is an old German word whose usage in English dates to the 1850s, spiking in American publications after World War II but then fading, according to Google data. It returned nearly a half-century later, some linguists say, because of a 1991 episode of “The Simpsons.”
“Part of the credit has to go to the Germans for coming up with an awesome word,” said “Simpsons” writer Jon Vitti.
The plot of his episode centers on a store for left-handed people, owned by Homer Simpson’s neighbor Ned Flanders, that goes out of business. Homer is overjoyed at Flanders’ failure until his daughter Lisa explains what he is feeling. Schadenfreude, she says, is “shameful joy—taking pleasure in the suffering of others.”
“Oh, come on, Lisa,” he says. “I’m just glad to see him fall flat on his butt. He’s usually all happy and comfortable and surrounded by loved ones. And it makes me feel—what’s the opposite of that shameful joy thing of yours?”
“Boy, those Germans have a word for everything,” Homer says.
Dr. Smith, of Kentucky, was already aware of the word at the time. He even mentioned it in the last line of his 2013 book about schadenfreude. “When the desired misfortunes fail to happen, we simply feel secret disappointment,” he wrote. “A recently coined word for this feeling is gluckschmerz—but that is another story.”