Tag Archives: Merriam-Webster

People Love Torment

Scha·den·freu·de (N): a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.


If there’s one thing I can count on in Americans, it’s the Nelson Muntz archetype. We love watching other people suffer. Any standard comedian will have some level of enjoyment in other people getting the short end of the stick, whether it be slipping on ice or missing the train by a few seconds. In fact, one of my favorite musical numbers is called “Schadenfreude.” (Warning: NSFW)

This leads me to interacting with attractive people, and my austere sense of manners. Emotions aren’t something you can simply turn off. If you can, you’re on your way to being a sociopath. I get extremely uncomfortable in avoiding embarrassment in front of 9s and 10s. These are people I consider 9s or 10s. Please keep that in mind. So, you can imagine the sheer terror I had when the physician’s assistant at my most recent doctor’s visit was a 9.

My mind starts in with the comments:

Antagony: “Hmm, what do her hands look like?”
Me: “Please don’t.”
Antagony: “Hey, eyes, pan down to the left hand. Would ya?”
Me: “NoooOOOooo!”
Antagony: “Would you look at that? She brushed up against your knee.”
Me: “What?! Oh God, mouth, keep shut!”
Antagony: “Ha! While you weren’t paying attention I got word she had no rings on her finger.”
Me: “This is a medical exam. Cut it out!”
Antagony: “I’m sure she’s in a terrible relationship with a 26 year-old med student playboy who drinks his dinner and is sleeping around behind her back.”
Nate: “None of that matters. Enough!”
Antagony: “WHAAAaat? Are you saying a 34 year-old neurotic with body by Patton Oswalt doesn’t have a chance with a gorgeous physician’s assistant who looks like she’s 10 years your junior?”
Me: “This is not the time nor the place for this!”
Antagony: “Relaaaax. Mouth hasn’t been paying attention anyway. He is going on about any known allergies in the past… what… 10 years? Besides, I’m having a LOT of fun here.”
Me: “Stop it!”

At this point I would be completely anxious I wouldn’t pull a Jon Lovitz’s character, Jay Sherman, and say it out loud. Then it would be just too awkward to bear.

I hate awkwardness, and think that’s why I couldn’t enjoy Meet the Parents. That’s all it was. I’ve been awkward many times before, and have made a concerted effort not to be awkward. Being reminded of that isn’t pleasant.

So, maybe you’ve found some enjoyment in my discomfort in striving for propriety? If so, that doesn’t make you a bad person, just human.

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These Are a Few of His Favorite Words…

I’m a little peeved this evening, as my copy of Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables disintegrated on me. When I picked it up at the used bookstore, it looked to be in great shape. Appearances can be deceiving, I guess. The pages are so brittle they chip if I look at them the wrong way. Fooey.

I have resorted to printing out the remaining chapters in order for me to enjoy them at my local drinking establishment. There are more words on one page anyway. I can read the book much faster. The pages also roll up nicely in my hand in case I need to bat a drunk on the head.

What I’ve noticed with Hawthorn is his love for repeating 50-cent words like the guy who learned it two seconds ago. There he spends all day trying to fit it into every sentence possible. This may be me being a bit hard on the author, but it feels amazingly unnatural. Sometimes it becomes obnoxious. Three words come to mind, when I think of Hawthorne’s work. Below is a breakdown of them all.

The three favorite words of Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Lugubrious: mournful; especially : exaggeratedly or affectedly mournful

Considering his fiction was of a Gothic style, this word makes perfect sense when found in his writing. He was writing about all sorts of morose thoughts and feelings and applied them liberally to his characters. The only problem is the word makes me think of Kentucky Fried Chicken. On the other hand, KFC can be seen as a mournful place. Touché.

Unctuous: full of unction; especially : revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality.

For some reason, I get very irritated when Merriam-Webster uses a derivative of the word I’m looking up to describe itself. If I knew what the derivatives meant, I wouldn’t be looking up the word. I would be able to guess at that point. Aside from being an awkward word to pronounce, “unctuous” makes me think of a unwanted relative. The uncle with a flatulence problem. “Aw, mom, do we have to invite Unctuous to the picnic this year?”

Festoon: (n) a carved, molded, or painted ornament representing a decorative chain or (v) decorate, adorn; also : cover

Everything festoons in Hawthorne’s world. From green beans to bed detail. My problem with it is I think of pantaloons and spittoons. Pants for dippin’. There’s a market for that, I think. How many chaw-cravin’ Summer Stock actors are there?

Are there any words to which you’re quite partial? Do they end up in your writing often?

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