August 18: Serendipity Day

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25498&picture=happy-girlSerendipity is the term for a “happy accident” or a “pleasant surprise.” Thus, Serendipity Day encourages people to look for and notice those unexpected good things that are always out there, if we have the eyes to see them. In fact, the creators of this holiday believe that serendipity is no accident at all, but an attitude or a lifestyle in which you are always reaching for those unexpected things and expecting happy surprises to occur.

“When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?'”

Acts 3:12

I know I got excited by etymologies just a few days ago (see Chauvin Day), but bear with me again. I learned something new and I found it fascinating!

horace walpole by rosalba carrieraThe word serendipity was coined in the mid 1700s by a man named Horace Walpole. In a letter to a friend, he explained how he had created the term from a Persian fairy tale known in English as The Three Princes of Serendip. The story tells of three princes who were banished from the kingdom of Serendip (another term for Sri Lanka) in order to prove their worth. As they wander the world, “serendipitous” moments occur to them time after time, in a rather unbelievable amount, much like some children’s stories, where they just happen to run across the perfect place or the clue to solve the mystery, or old, corny superhero movies, where they just happen to have the antidote lying around.

In other words, it seems like Walpole first created the word serendipity as some mild ridicule of these “happy accidents” and now the term is a favorite inspirational line everywhere: “seek serendipity!”

I love how language changes. 🙂

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