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.

(Thanks to John Cotter for the serendipitousness, and Reading the Past for the cover images.)


2 Comments to Serendipities

  1. January 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Serendipity is a word I like using, though, sparingly. I call my wife “serendipity” for she came along when I was not looking for another. To me a key factor of the word is gratefulness for all those things that happen to you that, of course, you did not expect and are far beyond what you deserved. There are so many things that came along when I married Lynelle that I am grateful for: I found out that sex did not end for me at fifty-five. There is Lynelle the superb editor and secretary extraordinaire and the lady who makes me laugh. She is so many things to me I am grateful for thus the title of a short story I wrote “I Call Her Serendipity”. It is all about gratefulness.

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