What is Serendipity?

Serendipity is the ability to use your intellect, curiosity and open mind to process experience and information, enabling you to reach higher and achieve more than you set out for in the first place.
Christine Strik

Serendipity has only recently become common use. Interpreted mostly as a ‘happy accident’, this word equals so much more than a mere Holywood movie.

Both consciously and unaware, serendipity has always been present in my life, whether it’s in the things I love or the values I stand for. It was right in front of me, revealing itself only at the right time: When thinking up a name for my business. The word sounds fun and frivolous, its origins were fascinating and its meaning appealing if not unequaled in other languages. It was written all over me!

As a child, I loved listening to my grandfather’s music favourites, ranging from Elvis’ gospel records to The Sound of Music, yet there was one favourite: Don’t Let the Rain Come Down. It always made me laugh out loud, so I decided to look it up on YouTube one rainy day a few years ago. Imagine my surprise when I found the song was performed by… The Serendipity Singers!

There are so many more examples of serendipity crossing my path throughout my life, both personally and professionally. I cherish what it has brought me, and what it has enbled me to bring my clients.

So where did the word come from?
Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in a letter dated January 28, 1754. Walpole was a prolific inventor, or at least populariser, of new words. He is credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing over 200 words into the English language, among them beefy, malaria, nuance, sombre, and souvenir. It would take nearly two centuries for the adjective form, serendipitous, to come on the scene—its first recorded usage was in 1943.

And then some…
In his 1998 novel Armadillo,William Boyd coined zemblanity as a complementary term, defined as ‘making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design.’ Zemblanity takes its name from an Arctic archipelago called Novaya Zemlya where Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew were stranded in the 1590s. A year after Boyd’s coinage, in 1999, Toby J. Sommers coined bahramdipity to describe the suppression od serendipitous discoveries. The word is formed from Bahram Gur, the king in the story. Sommers defines bahramdipity as ‘the suppression of a discovery, sometimes a serendipitous discovery, by the often-egomaniacal act of a more powerful individual who cruelly punishes, not merely by disdain, a person (or persons) of lesser power and little renown who demonstrates sagacity, perspicacity, and truthfulness.’

Curious about Horace Walpole’s letter? Click here… And the fairy tale of The Three Princes of Serendip? Click here…