English is mostly a Germanic language with some French thrown in owing to the Norman (French) Conquest of England, so it’s a great time to revive and revel in a German word not used that often but particularly a propos this year–schadenfreude.

Roughly translated, schadenfreude means "joy over other people’s suffering and losses."

With the circle of fat-cat millionaires and billionaires now being brought down singlehandedly by Bernie Madoff and his $50-billion Wall Street  Ponzi scheme, we can all take some delight in seeing others get what’s due them. If we ourselves have suffered losses this year (raise your hand to join mine if you have), l’affaire Madoff is just what the doctor ordered.

Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell tells a great fable that cuts to the heart of schadenfreude–and human nature.

Two Russian peasants, one named Ivan and one Boris, live a rough-and-tumble existence in the forest, but Boris (or Ivan, I can’t recall who) has a goal and Ivan has nothing.

One day Ivan stumbles upon a genie in the forest who offers to grant him one wish but one wish only. So what does Ivan ask for?

"Make Boris’s goat die."

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