Thursday, January 23, 2014


Why I learned the word 'epicaricacy'

How does one find new words of interest? There are several ways that come to mind.

Today I was trying the bluffing and searching technique when I had a very unexpected response. The construct sought to combine "hypocrisy" with "-cracy" to convey rule by those who claim to espouse one set of principles but exercise another. I made a spelling error along the way -- 'hipocri-' instead of 'hypocri-' -- and searched for 'hipocricracy'. Imagine my surprise to find the search engine proposal to correct my search term by 'epicaricacy'!


For those wanting to know now, without switching to Wiktionary, epicaricacy is apparently a recent coinage meaning the same thing as schadenfreude but looking less like a word borrowed from a foreign language: a word made from ancient Greek pieces instead of a German word. It means rejoicing at or deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others.

Mysterious Substitutions and IrregEx

I am baffled by the transformation involved in finding the "similar" string of characters "correcting" my query term.
  h i p o c r i c r a c y
  e p i c a r i c _ a c y 
How did '-ricracy' become '-ricacy'? Why was the semantically very important 'r' deleted?
Then, the prefix to that, 'hipoc', became 'epica'. One can imagine trying to correct a letter sequence using a transformation applying letter inversions whenever possible, then substitutions of vowels:
  h i p o c
  h p i o c
  e p i o c
  e p i c o
  e p i c a
The biggest change was converting the initial 'hp' (caused by swapping the i and the p) to 'ep', pretty necessary since one would not find any words starting 'hpi' (except maybe Hewlett-Packard machines or programs).
Alternate Process
Here is another look at what happened, which I will not argue is a better proposition.
  1. replace the prefix by another common prefix of similar length and also having two syllables: hipo- becomes epi-
  2. deal with what is left, preserving as much as possible of the suffix -acy etc.
       c   r i c r
       c a r i c

Search engine correction works in mysterious ways.


Correcting the spelling, one does find a few occurrences of hypocricracy in Internet content. Most seem to be simple misspellings of "hypocrisy" but there is at least one short message broadcast via which uses the word as (I) intended.

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