According to my daily dispatch from The Writer’s Almanac, today marks the 256th anniversary of the origin of the word serendipity. In a letter to a friend dated January 28, 1754, Horace Walpole explains that
he came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called The Three Princes of Serendip, explaining, “as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” The three princes of Serendip hail from modern-day Sri Lanka. “Serendip” is the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India.
As mentioned before, here at Like Fire we’re big fans of serendipity in all its guises. I’m pretty sure there’s a direct connection between people who grew up watching Connections on PBS and people who blog. For instance, at Reading the Past Sarah Johnson has put together a collection of Reusable Cover Art—images and reproductions that have proved to be extra popular on book covers. Aside from the obvious concurrences there, it’s interesting to see the ways they’re recycled, or not: airbrushed cleavage, Photoshopped drinks in hand, the way small changes in type and layout convert classical to cheesy, and vice versa.
Which, in turn, brings to mind Steve Donoghue’s décolletage-saturated Tudor cover series, My Eyes Are Up Here, Milord.
The Writer’s Almanac tells us that serendipity “was recently listed by a U.K. translation company as one of the English language’s 10 most difficult words to translate. Other words to make their list include plenipotentiary, gobbledegook, poppycock, whimsy, spam, and kitsch.” Stay tuned.