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3:37pm on Monday, 27th November, 2006:

There Should be a Word


There's an intersection between hypocrisy, schadenfreude and irony that there should be a word for but there isn't.

Today, I was mocked my a friend and colleague of mine because my hair's going grey. Nothing wrong there, it is going grey, but the person who said it is pretty well bald. I have more right to mock him than he has to mock me. What's going on?

Its like hypocrisy, but it isn't hypocrisy. Hypocrisy would be if he told me to shave my hair off and wear a wig (as he doesn't wear a wig himself), but he wasn't saying one thing and doing the opposite; he was making an amusing observation from a position even more amusing.

It's like schadenfreude, but it isn't schadenfreude. Schadenfreude would be if he were worried about going bald but still had a full head of full-colour hair, and was mocking me because even though I'm younger than him I'm going grey. Although he obviously did enjoy the fact that I'm going grey, which I suppose, strictly speaking, is indeed "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune", the fact that he's in a worse position than me would suggest that it's I who should be feeling the schadenfreude about him, not vice versa.

It's like irony, but it isn't irony. Irony would be if the humour of his mocking me for going grey came from his awareness of his own baldness, however when I responded to his remarks ("at least I have hair to go grey") he was irritated, which suggests this was not his motive.

No, he just mocked me because he thought it amusing that I'm going grey and didn't figure that from my point of view it's even more amusing that he's bald.

The first time I encountered this phenomenon was at school. There was this kid who used to pick up dog shit and throw them at people. He thought it amusing when he hit because then they had dog shit marks on their arm or wherever; this was despite the fact that, hit or miss, he had dog shit all over his hand. I mean, how unaware can people be?!

There should be a word for it.

Hmm, actually, maybe there is: "stupid".

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).