Friday, November 9, 2012

About that German word

The other day I used the word "schadenfreude" on the blog. At the time, I capitalized it -- "Schadenfreude" -- because I thought Wikipedia told me to. I'd gone there to be sure my spelling was correct -- it was -- and saw it capitalized so I did the same. But it rankled. Just felt wrong.

Today I saw the word -- not capitalized -- on Der Spiegel's website. That put the kibosh on the capitalized version for good. If Germans don't capitalize it, there is no argument.

So I headed back to Wikipedia to see what was up, and saw this:
Conventionally, Schadenfreude is capitalized, as are all nouns in written German. When used as a loanword in English, however, it is not capitalized, unless the origin of the word is meant to be emphasized. The corresponding German adjective is schadenfroh. The word derives from Schaden (damage, harm) and Freude (joy). 
Ah. I see. But I just saw it not capitalized on a German media site. Therefore I suggest we don't need the "loanword" rule. It ain't capitalized, unless you're into etymology. Just thought I'd pass this on, in case my capitalization error influenced anyone. Sorry.