serendipity

A real find of a word. It presents an interesting mixture of bits – a new discovery at every turn: is it serene? dippy? is there pity? if you are in a sere place, will it rend you – or render you to a dip to end it? The word brings pleasant resonances to those who know it, and its sound delivers nice contrast: a smooth trochee followed by a bopping dactyl. It starts with a snakey s, but it won’t bite; the pair of eyes you see are heavy-lidded e‘s, like those of a relaxed dreamer (as the lid of r droops to n). But then a d pops up, and in the twinkling of an i it has flipped over to p. And after you’ve seen ity? Well, why not? And where was this word found? Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, once known in Persian as Serendip… but as seen through a spyglass from England: in the 18th century, Horace Walpole coined the word on the basis of the story of the three princes of Serendip, who were ever discovering happy wondrous things unsought and unexpected… perhaps they, too, were word tasters.

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