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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Swedish word of the day: skadeglädje

This word describes quite an unpleasant emotion.

Swedish word of the day: skadeglädje
Image: nito103/Depositphotos

Skadeglädje is a compound word made up of skada ('damage') and glädje (joy).

It describes the cruel feeling of deriving pleasure (glädje) from someone else's misfortune (something that causes them skada).

You can also use the adjective skadeglad, which translates as 'happy at someone else's misfortune'. So to use either word in a sentence, you would say that someone är skadeglad or känner skadeglädje.

For example, if you're gleefully watching someone struggle down the street through sleet and snow, while you're safely indoors with a warm drink and the heating on, you might be skadeglad

The same would apply if you're a football fan and hear that the top player on the team up against yours is injured. That nasty feeling of relief and even happiness? That's skadeglädje. 

Skadeglädje is a direct translation from the German term Schadenfreude which means the same thing. But while the English language borrowed the German word directly (at some point in the 20th century), as did several other languages, the Swedes translates both components of the word.

The Norwegian and Danish languages also have the word skadefryd, while the Dutch translation is leedvermaak.

And before you draw the conclusion that a cold climate might lead to a particularly unfeeling attitude, it's not only the Germanic languages that have a word of phrase for the feeling.

The Russian translation is zloradstvo, while many Romance translations literally mean 'malicious joy', such as joie maligne in French and gioia maligna in Italian.

Examples

Skadeglädje är den enda sanna glädjen

Schadenfreude is the only true happiness

Hon kände en viss skadeglädje över exets problem

She felt a certain schadenfreude about her ex's problem

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

Member comments

  1. a piece from the Guardian in 2018 on whether we should feel good about feeling schadenfreude: “Sometimes we judge wrongly, and our schadenfreude leaves us feeling morally awkward. There is an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer’s infuriatingly perfect neighbour Ned Flanders opens a shop, The Leftorium. Given the chance to imagine three wishes, Homer fantasises that Ned’s business collapses. First, he sees the shop empty of customers, then Flanders turning out his pockets, then Flanders begging the bailiffs. It is only when Homer imagines Flanders’s grave, Flanders’s children weeping beside it, that he stops himself. “Too far,” he says, and quickly rewinds to the image of the bankrupt shop.

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For members

SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Love them or hate them, foppatofflor are unexpectedly coming back in to fashion. But what are they, and how did they get their Swedish name?

Swedish word of the day: foppatofflor

Foppatoffla – foppatofflor in plural – is the Swedish term for Crocs – plastic sandals or clogs which first became popular in the early 2000s.

The word foppatoffla is made up of two words. The first is foppa, which is the nickname of one of Sweden’s most successful ice hockey players, Peter Forsberg. The second half of the word is toffla, the Swedish word for “sandal”.

Foppatofflor, the Swedish term for Crocs. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/Scanpix/TT

So, what does a famous Swedish ice hockey player have to do with plastic clogs?

The story begins in the early 2000s, when Forsberg was recovering from a foot injury sustained playing professional ice hockey. When looking for a shoe comfortable enough for him to wear without exacerbating his injury, he came across Crocs, which were designed to be comfortable and ergonomic.

Recognising the shoes’ potential, Forsberg became an early investor, securing the sole rights to distribute Crocs in Sweden through his company Forspro. But Forsberg didn’t just invest in the shoes, he also appeared in adverts for them, leading Swedes to start referring to the shoes as foppatofflor.

By 2010, sales of foppatofflor were dwindling, so Forsberg shut down Forspro to focus on other investments – but not before the name had stuck.

Peter “Foppa” Forsberg. The man you can thank (or despise) for introducing Crocs to Sweden. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

The shoes are still popular as ergonomic and hygienic work shoes, particularly in the healthcare sector, although they were briefly banned in some Swedish hospitals on suspicion of causing a build-up of static electricity which disrupted hospital machinery.

They may also be coming back into fashion, gracing the Oscars red carpet and the Instagram feeds of musicians such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Pharell Williams in the last few years.

So, love them or hate them, foppatofflor seem to be here to stay. Now you know what word to use if you decide to pick up a pair for yourself this summer.

Example sentences:

Jag har precis köpt nya foppatofflor till barnen – de är ju så praktiska!

I’ve just bought new Crocs for the kids – they’re so practical!

Gud, är foppatofflor verkligen trendiga nu? Bra att jag har kvar mina från 00-talet!

God, are Crocs really trendy now? Good job I kept mine from the noughties!

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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