42

I frequently find myself needing a word to express happiness that acknowledges a tragic or unfortunate circumstance underpinning that happiness. Preferably the word could have both adjective and verb forms. For example, "Gregory [verb-ed | felt adjective about] the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

"Bittersweet" is close, but not precisely right. It implies ambivalence rather than genuine gladness. "Schadenfreude" is also in the neighborhood, but I don't want to imply that the tragic part of the situation is what causes the pleasure. (Also, I recognize that the word may not quite exist in English, and I don't know if this is forbidden for this forum, but I'd welcome a loan word or phrase if there's a better one.)

  • 2
    Phrase / saying, fine; purely foreign word, totally off-topic. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 14 '17 at 22:59
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    Schadenfreude and the English equivalent: english.stackexchange.com/questions/378283/…, I'm just not sure it works in this situation (as you note). – Mike C Mar 14 '17 at 23:51
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    Is the implication that Gregory doesn't care or feel sad about the prospect of climate change? If not, it's unclear to me how bittersweet doesn't fit. – jerry Mar 15 '17 at 0:43
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    I think someone could feel both glad and perplexed by a balmy February day. Consider using two adjectives. "Gregory felt both glad and perplexed at this balmy February day." You could also try a phrase. "Gregory felt reluctant happiness at this balmy February day." – ktm5124 Mar 15 '17 at 20:21
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    "Gregory felt 'solace' in the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change." Solace is that feeling you get when you are distressed yet consoled in a situation. – Crashie-J Mar 15 '17 at 20:57

15 Answers 15

20

How about an alloyed pleasure, or maybe a tarnished pleasure.

An unalloyed pleasure is a pleasure with no drawbacks, no downsides.

In this instance, we have a pleasure (in the sunny day) that was alloyed (or tarnished) by the realisation that the unseasonable warmth was caused by climate change.

"Gregory felt a tarnished pleasure in the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

"Gregory felt an alloyed pleasure in the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

"Gregory's pleasure in the balmy February day was tarnished by his suspicion that it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

"Gregory's pleasure in the balmy February day was alloyed by his suspicion that it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

  • 6
    'Guilty pleasure' would be more idiomatic. – user52673 Mar 15 '17 at 23:06
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    This is my favorite response! "Guilty pleasure" is also close, but understates the guilt. Precisely because it's idiomatic, it now connotes more mild embarrassment than significant sorrow. "Alloyed (or tarnished) pleasure" is stronger, and very evocative, I think. – mthomps Mar 15 '17 at 23:27
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    I hope you haven't trademarked "tarnished pleasure" yet. That's wonderfully evocative, and I plan on using it soon. But I'm afraid "alloyed pleasure" doesn't sing at all. – Scott Sauyet Mar 17 '17 at 3:13
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    I prefer alloyed, tarnished to me has more of a suggestion that it's become worse. I'd say 'took' rather than 'felt an' though: remove the adjective and you wouldn't write 'Gregory felt a pleasure in...' – OJFord Mar 17 '17 at 12:12
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    Both 'tarnished pleasure' and 'alloyed pleasure' have been used before, so you are not coining either phrase. But please bear in mind nohat's comment on a previous thread: ''I really don't feel comfortable at all with our site becoming a place where people go who want a word [/phrase] invented. While I delight in exciting new words being invented and promulgated, I think we will rapidly lose our reputation as a place where people can get authoritative answers if many answers are not authoritative but just merely inventive." – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '17 at 22:21
56

Possibly a "silver lining?"

a sign of hope in an unfortunate or gloomy situation; a bright prospect

Source: Dictionary.com

It has a meaning of being a positive thing coming out of a negative event

  • 2
    > I'm sorry that your business failed and went into bankruptcy but every cloud has a Silver Lining. – Alaska man Mar 15 '17 at 12:03
  • close, but in this instance, Gregory was enjoying the sunny weather until he had the thought that it was probably caused by climate change. – Yvonne Aburrow Mar 15 '17 at 14:31
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    @YvonneAburrow It can work if you invert the sentence, like: "Climate change is terrible for the planet, but there is a silver lining: look at the great weather we're having this week! This time of year, five years ago, I would still be carrying my umbrella everywhere!" – xDaizu Mar 16 '17 at 11:13
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    Yes, but the sequence of emotions in a "silver lining" situation is sadness at the bad aspect of the situation, mitigated by happiness at the one good thing to come out of it. The sequence of emotions in this situation is happiness at the good weather, followed by sadness that its probably cause is climate change. It is similar, but it is not the same. – Yvonne Aburrow Mar 16 '17 at 11:17
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    A bit of a tongue-in-cheek inversion of the phrase that may fit better is "every silver lining has a cloud". (Unfortunately, using "cloud" alone doesn't exactly work as well as "silver lining".) – Serlite Mar 17 '17 at 16:21
26

You could say that the good weather was cold comfort to Gregory:

quite limited sympathy, consolation, or encouragement (Merriam-Webster)

The good news about the economy is cold comfort to people who have lost their jobs.

  • 4
    "Gregory took cold comfort in the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change." - makes perfect sense to me – SGR Mar 15 '17 at 13:58
  • close, but not quite. I had the exact same feeling as the fictitious Gregory the other day: "ooh lovely weather, sunshine, feel happy....... but oh bugger, it's probably caused by climate change" – Yvonne Aburrow Mar 15 '17 at 14:28
  • This is a good suggestion! – ktm5124 Mar 15 '17 at 21:03
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    I disagree — cold comfort is usually no comfort at all. Just look at Merriam-Webster's example. – mattdm Mar 16 '17 at 10:36
  • I wouldn't use this in the exact phrase given: the word 'balmy' might not be fully understood by all readers, and the phrase "Gregory took cold comfort in the balmy weather" could be interpreted as cold-heat rather than as a descriptor of the comfort. Whilst strictly correct, kindness and clarity to readers of all abilities should be considered. (However, if the sentence was not about the weather, this would be a cool (haha, pun intended) way of saying it, as per your example from Merriam-Webster). – Jmons Mar 17 '17 at 13:48
25

Not a word but an idiom:

a blessing in disguise:

something that seems bad or unlucky at first, but results in something good happening later:

  • Losing that job was a blessing in disguise really.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • 8
    This fits the title of the question but not the example. "Gregory felt the balmy February day was a blessing in disguise, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change." doesn't make sense – Ben Aaronson Mar 15 '17 at 13:17
  • This would fit if the new job was better than the old job. – Michael Hampton Mar 16 '17 at 3:23
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    Perhaps inverting a "blessing in disguise" to a "curse in disguise" would work better. "Gregory felt the balmy February day was a curse in disguise, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change." It feels as if it should work. – Yoshi Bro Mar 17 '17 at 5:50
18

I don't know that there's a single term with both a verb and adjective form that will fit. However, the common phrases mixed feelings (to feel "both pleased and not pleased about [something] at the same time", Cambridge Dictionary) and guilty pleasure ("something pleasurable that induces a usually minor feeling of guilt", Merriam-Webster) might cover your bases.

Gregory had mixed feelings about the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

Gregory took a certain guilty pleasure in the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

4

My first reaction was something involving the conception of resignation. Example (which certainly doesn't feel 100% right): "Given his concerns about climate change, Gregory felt resignedly glad about the balmy weather." Most dictionary definitions of resignation involve submission or acquiescence; what Gregory is submitting to here is his own happiness, despite his principles. "Reluctant pleasure" could also be along the right lines.

4

Gregory mused it was an ill wind that blows nobody any good, as he enjoyed the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

it's an ill wind (that blows nobody any good)
saying:
said to show that even a very bad situation must have some good results
cambridge.org

Quoting www.phrases.org.uk :

[...]
This is first recorded in John Heywood's
A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:
"An yll wynde that blowth no man to good, men say." [...]

  • 1
    Like that time I maxed out my credit card betting on Trump to win the election? (Sadly this didn't happen) – Max Williams Mar 15 '17 at 16:26
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    @MaxWilliams so I guess he is really an ill wind. – k1eran Mar 15 '17 at 17:37
2

You've indicated that "bittersweet" is not precisely right, and maybe you're correct, but it's still better than any other option that's been presented.

Although Gregory may not have felt bittersweet immediately, when he was just enjoying the balmy day, he certainly does after thinking about climate change.

Some definitions for "bittersweet":

Dictionary.com

both pleasant and painful or regretful

Urban Dictionary

when something is good but there is a bad part about it

Merriam-Webster

being at once bitter and sweet; especially : pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret

Oxford Dictionaries

Arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain.

You indicated in your reservations concerning the word that "bittersweet" indicates ambivalence, but I don't see that in any definition, and wouldn't agree based on my knowledge of the word.

Furthermore, you're specifically looking for something that indicates goodness or happiness, but with a tinge of sadness, as opposed to "silver lining", which indicates the opposite. From several of these definitions, you can see that "bittersweet" fits this description perfectly.

  • While bittersweet well-expresses the ultimate sentiment, it lacks the transformational flavor of tarnished pleasure. This is why you had to add the "although" clause. Tarnished pleasure is quite evocative: Gregory is happy initially, but then the doubts boil up. – torek Mar 19 '17 at 9:59
2

" *Gregory felt solace about the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible"

This one isn't an idiom like the previously mentioned examples:

Silver Lining

Light at The End of the Tunnel

Cold Comfort

Solace is a single-use word in the English language that refers exactly to the scenario which you are describing.

From Google:

Solace (noun)

1) comfort or consolation in a time of great distress or sadness.

"she sought solace in her religion"

  • 1
    If it fits the situation exactly, use it in the example sentence. It doesn't seem to fit at all, to me. Seems backwards actually, like silver lining. Should be finding some sadness in something that is otherwise happy. – DCShannon Mar 17 '17 at 21:44
1

This scenario can be described as conflicted:

adj
unable to decide between opposing feelings or views
The Free Dictionary by FARLEX

In your sample:

Gregory felt conflicted about the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

  • +1 Reminds me of the joke about watching your mother-in-law driving over a cliff in your new Mercedes.... – Cascabel Mar 17 '17 at 22:02
0

Fortunate (adjective)

receiving good from uncertain or unexpected sources (Free Dictionary)

Gregory was fortunate to have the balmy weather,...

Fortune doesn't have a verb form in the same sense.

0

How about Appease verb (used with object), appeased, appeasing.

  1. to bring to a state of peace, quiet, ease, calm, or contentment; pacify; soothe: to appease an angry king.
  2. to satisfy, allay, or relieve; assuage: The fruit appeased his hunger
  • 1
    Can you show how this fits in the example sentence? – GreenAsJade Mar 17 '17 at 5:00
  • The point of appease is that it not that it brings peace, so much as that it makes anger go away. And of course, there is the negative implications that come from appeasement. – Ben Aveling Mar 17 '17 at 14:50
0

"Gregory [verb-ed | felt adjective about] the balmy February day, suspecting it was yet another consequence of catastrophic and irreversible climate change."

For this particular case the following come to mind:

Gregory savored with a sense of unease the balmy February day, suspecting that... / Gregory savored uneasily the balmy February day, suspecting that...

The verb temper could also be used with a noun, probably with wider applicability than the savor/unease examples.

Gregory's enjoyment of the balmy February day was tempered by a suspicion that...

-1

You might look at the concept of deep comedy outlined by Peter Leithart. While his usage of it is for Trinitarian theology, I think it explains this dynamic well. Not really a word, though, and would need some explanation.

Deep comedy is the idea that mankind went from garden, to garden lost, and for God's elect will ultimately get to garden city (heaven) through redemption. It acknowledges the fall, but views it through a lens of fortune due to the greater glory of redemption (think of sun shining brighter after a storm). Another way the idea is often put is "fortunate fall."

Again, it is steeped in theology so may not work for your use, but the concept is rich at least.

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    you haven't explained what this has to do with feeling happy at a sunny day, followed by feeling sad that it is probably caused by climate change. In the mythological example that you give, humanity is supposed to feel sad at being cast out of the Garden, but then happy that it gave rise to the Incarnation. However, in the weather/climate change example, it is happiness followed by sadness. – Yvonne Aburrow Mar 17 '17 at 9:39
-2

Again a phrase rather than a single word, but how about:

George saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as the "hope of success, happiness, or help after a long period of difficulty".

protected by Kit Z. Fox Mar 15 '17 at 17:13

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