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The font of all pleasure

It's been quite a few years ago, but I still remember the time I took one of those little quizzes you used to find in women's magazines.

No, it wasn't about rating your marriage or your parenting skills.

This quiz was about words, both their meanings and their pronunciations.

Now, I have been a voracious reader for a very long time. (See, I know lots of big words!) I used to be that obnoxious kid in school who would take her reading book home the first day of school and have it all read by the next morning.

As I grew up, books, newspapers, magazines ... even the backs of cereal boxes or the toothpaste tube ... if it had writing on it, it was fair game.

So I took the test, and boy did I score big on the vocabulary section. Perfect, if I'm remembering correctly, and I'm sure I am. I knew what all of those words meant.

But I didn't do so well on the rest of the test, which had to do with how those words are actually pronounced. My low scores on the second half of the test led to a conclusion that "You read a lot, but you've never actually heard any of these words used in a sentence." Well, duh. I could have told them that.

One of those big words has been on my mind a lot lately.

It's a great German word, full of all the angst and drama of that Teutonic language.

The word is "schadenfreude." Pronounced "scha-den-freud-eh" as near as I can tell.

A great word, but also a truly disturbing word.

You see, schadenfreude means to take pleasure in the suffering of others.

Not to take pleasure in the good things in life, like love, family, the smell of bread baking and the sight of a cute puppy.

But to take pleasure in the evil, the sadness, the grief that happens to someone we just don't happen to like very much.

Who among us is so perfect that the little schadenfreude devil hasn't sat on our shoulder and whispered in our ear?

Who hasn't giggled when the star outfielder for the other team drops an easy fly ball?

Who hasn't smugly grinned when the high school quarterback and homecoming queen show up at their 30th reunion fat, bald and wrinkled?

And who hasn't absolutely gloated when the idiot that sped past you on the interstate is pulled over by a state trooper?

Yep, schadenfreude.

Rick Warrren is learning all about schadenfreude.

Yes, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," pastor of the ginormous Saddleback Church, and speaker at presidential inaugurations, has been touched by tragedy. His beloved son, Matthew, recently committed suicide, and he and his family and friends are suffering.

But his detractors, those who dislike him and his message, are having a field day.

They are relishing Warren's pain, rolling around in it like pigs in slop.

Some call him a hypocrite, and others say Warren earned his suffering because he is a "monster." Fox News personality Megyn Kelly called some of the comments "shocking, disgusting and hard to understand."

Yep, schadenfreude rules.

I still think schadenfreude is a cool word, but as a feeling or emotion, it's not how I want to describe myself.

I want to celebrate the good in life, and let the bad hopefully wither and die.

And there's no big words required for that.

Putnam County Record/Tonica News Managing Editor Barb Kromphardt can be reached at

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