16 January 2010

New favourite word: Serendipity

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated

The word derives from Serendip, the Persian name for Sri Lanka, and was coined by Horace Walpole on 28 January 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, an Englishman then living in Florence. The letter read:

"It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a camel blind of the right eye had traveled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity? One of the most remarkable instances of this accidental sagacity (for you must observe that no discovery of a thing you are looking for, comes under this description) was of my Lord Shaftsbury, who happening to dine at Lord Chancellor Clarendon's, found out the marriage of the Duke of York and Mrs. Hyde, by the respect with which her mother treated her at table."



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