Jealousy, Envy

“We hate it when our friends become successful”.

A: So, could you tell me the difference between jealousy and envy?

B: Why would you want to know that?

A: Because you asked me to ask you.

B: Of course. Well I was reading an interesting dictionary and before that I never really knew the difference.

A: You surprise me.

B: I know what sarcasm is though.

A: OK. So that Morrissey song is true is it?

B: All Morrissey songs are true.

A: I know that – I’m thinking of the one about jealousy and / or envy.

B: That narrows it down.

A: “We hate it when our friends become successful.”

B: Ah! A typical case of career- jealousy.

A: Don’t you mean career-envy?

B: No. As my dictionary understands it this would be an example of the experience of loss, either real or imagined, of something we believe is ours.

A: But the success of others is not something we have lost. I would contend that this would be envy. In the dictionary definition I have at the core of envy seems to be an upward social comparison that threatens a persons self-esteem: another person has something that the envier considers to be important to have. If the other person is perceived to be similar as the envier, the aroused envy will be particularly intense, because it signals to the envier that it just as well could have been him who had the desired object…………..

B: I see. So, when John Lennon talks of being a Jealous Guy..

A: I guess he was telling the truth. He was dreaming of the past and ..

B: ..his heart was beating fast..

A: Yeah yeah…. And the woman or man was something he had lost that was, or he thought was, ‘owned’ by him.

B: I see. So if he had called the song “Envious guy” it would mean that the woman, or man, was not his wife / girlfriend / partner / boyfriend / significant other but belonged to someone else.
A: That would be very interesting… but not so successful I guess.

B: Why not? It’s a more subtle interpretation dealing with the concept of loving from a distance and never being able to have what you desire. In the tradition of Tristan and Isolde, Layla and Majnun, Emma in Madame Bovary, Shakespeare and Spencer’s sonnets, Shrek……..

A: It wouldn’t scan though.

B: Interesting. So where do you think ‘green with envy’ comes from?

A: Glad you asked that because my dictionary says that ‘green’ and ‘pale’ were alternate meanings of the same Greek word. In the seventh century B.C., the poetess Sappho, used this word that could mean ‘green’ or ‘pale’ to describe the complexion of a stricken lover. The Greeks believed that this emotion was accompanied by an overproduction of bile, lending a pallid green cast to the victim.

B: Good dictionary.

A: It is.

B: So perhaps it should be green with jealousy.

A: Not really – stricken, to me, implies the onset of death and you couldn’t really own a dead person, could you?

B: Well my dictionary says that in some countries a cadaver is considered property of the state, and every citizen is thus a potential donor. One such country is Belgium — which has a surplus of organs and a thriving transplantation business, as the country does not allow organs to be exported. Foreigners who want a transplant must go to Belgium, stay in a Belgian hospital and pay Belgian doctors.

A: Weird dictionary.


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