In a Word...

... schadenfreude

 

Schadenfreude is the pleasure experienced while witnessing another’s misfortune. There is little doubt that, on this side of the Irish Sea, we have watched the implosion of Britain’s Tory party over Brexit with a certain, er, restrained satisfaction. It would be much less so if a no-deal Brexit did not have such serious implications for Ireland.

Of course that most British of parties owes its Tory name to us “indomitable Irishry”, not that many know it. It’s derived from the Irish word tóraí”, meaning an outlaw or robber; from the Irish word tóir for “pursuit”, since outlaws were on the run.

That is not all. The term was first used in Ireland to describe bands of guerrillas who fought against Cromwell during the mid-1600s and later for dispossessed Catholics in Ulster.

Only history could transmogrify (change in a surprising way) that meaning into the modern “Tory”. I mean who would ever describe Jacob Really-Smug as “an Irish rebel”, even if that was an original meaning of Tory as a term of abuse.

More hilarious has been to witness such unlikely allies under the Brexit banner. One would stretch one’s imagination to see said Jacob hob-nobbing with your average hard Brexiteer from Sunderland, for example.

This was highlighted in a survey last month. It found that 55 per cent of Britons would go to great lengths to hide their nationality when abroad, with 72 per cent saying they recoil at hearing another British accent when away.

A clue as to why can be deduced from knowing the survey was conducted for Exclusiveprivatevillas. com.

“Exclusive” British are most embarrassed abroad by their compatriots’ excessive drinking (49 per cent), their ignorance of the host culture (46 per cent), their constant wearing of football shirts (32 per cent), their talking about Brexit (21 per cent) and their eating dinner early (8 per cent).

Shouldn’t happen to a Brit!

Schadenfreude, from German, meaning “damage-joy”. Schaden “damage’ + freude”, from Old High German frewida, “joy”.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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