Hubris, zugzwang, schadenfreude!

Words are used to convey meaning to one’s utterances and writings. Some words get used more than others depending on the person and the language. There are some words that are used less frequently and it piques your interest when you come across their usage the first time. The words that come to my mind today are: hubris, zugzwang and schadenfreude.
If you are interested in etymology hubris has its roots in Greek, zugzwang and schadenfreude have German roots. When I first came across these words I was naturally interested in knowing what they meant. Below is meaning of those words

Hubris: excessive pride or self-confidence
Zugzwang: a situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage
Schadenfreude: pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune

It’s tempting to say I knew the word hubris from the time I was in kindergarten 😀 but that wouldn’t be true and I don’t remember when I first heard or saw that word. Zugzwang I remember more clearly. One episode in TV series Criminal Minds had that title. Retaining that word in memory was also helped by the fact my son used to play chess at that time and the word is also used to describe a situation in the game which is kind of hopeless for the player who has to make the next move. About 10-15 years ago I must have come across the word schadenfreude. Haven’t seen or heard that word much in recent times. Probably it is not used much now. I set out to see if I could use all those words to describe a situation. Here is my attempt.

Imagine a person who is a congenital liar given to boasting all the time. Assume that person is also supremely confident that someone else will always take a bullet for his/her lies and deceptions. If that person claims he can get away with murder, shooting another person in broad daylight at Times Square, that is HUBRIS!
If the liar gets caught in his/her own web of lies and deceit and not able to come up with a proper explanation for his/her words and actions that is ZUGZWANG!
If people who have been repeatedly mortified or affected by the liar’s words and actions find that person in zugzwang the feeling that they experience is SCHADENFREUDE!

Link to snippet of Criminal Minds episode ‘Zugzwang’ which has ‘Say something’ song playing in background:

It’s poignant.

Link to zugzwang explanation in chess: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4zNsJ46MQY

Author: Rajaram 'Raj' Gopalan

Hi All, Welcome to my home in cyberspace! You can call me Raj. Feel free to explore, discuss, comment and most importantly have a good time!

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