Ancient Word of the Day: Serendipitist

Ancient Word of the Day: Serendipitist

Serendipitist: n. A person who benefits from a chance or serendipitous event

Serendipity: happenchance or providence.

This beautiful term was originally coined by writer Horace Walpole in 1754. Walpole was inspired by the ancient Persian tale The Three Princes of Serendip, about some titular characters who ran around in ancient Persia having some marvellous luck and serendipitous occurrences in their lives.

Serendip or Serendib: origin: Arabic. The archaic name for the island of Sri Lanka a.k.a. Ceylon

The name Serendib is a corruption of the Sanskrit name Siṃhaladvīpa which translates to Dwelling Place of the Lions. The Arabic name of Serendib dates to is thought to have been borrowed from the local Indians with whom they traded with on the island of (what is now known as) Sri Lanka.

Ancient words of the day: Glamour and grammar

“As their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” 

~ Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo published by Michele Tramezzino in Venice in 1557 and later translated to English.

The Three Princes of Serendip
On a voyage of discovery

Related term

Felix Culpa: Happy or Blessed Fault Origin: Latin.

The serendipitous discovery of LSD

In 1943, Albert Hofmann studied Lysergic acid, a powerful chemical that was first isolated from a fungus that grows on rye. He was planning on using this compound in pharmaceuticals and he accidentally tasted some.

He went home and lay down because he was feeling ill and..

“..sank into a kind of drunkenness which was not unpleasant and which was characterised by extreme activity of the imagination,” according to his own notes. As I lay in a dazed condition with my eyes closed (I experienced daylight as disagreeably bright) there surged upon me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscope-like play of colours.”

Intrigued, Hoffman later intentionally dosed himself with LSD and went cycling.

References

Serendib

Wikipedia: Serendipity

Etymonline

Albert Hoffman: Popular Mechanics

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities : A Yearbook of Forgotten Words by Paul Anthony Jones

2 thoughts on “Ancient Word of the Day: Serendipitist

  1. I love this word, which is actually a tautology. We are all a serendipitist and saying anything to the contrary is a denial of the fact that we cannot control our lives to the extent that we believe we can.

    Life is filled with serendipity – little moments of chance that, when reviewed years later, majorly influence our biography. We are taught to believe that we are in control of our destiny, while in fact that is only partially the case. Our false belief in the controlable malleability of life is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness.

    This article ends with a massive cliffhanger. I would love to know more about Hoffman’s bike ride.

    1. Oh yeah…it definitely is a tautology, it never occurred to me at the time of writing but thanks for pointing it out Peter. That is very wise and very true about the false very human urge to control things in life that are not within our control. The story of Hoffman is fascinating yes! I think in that link at the bottom from Popular Mechanics there is a much longer story about his bike ride. Thank you for your comment Peter have a great holidays 🙂

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