We Princes of Serendip

princesIt was on January 28, 1754 that the word "serendipity" was first coined. It was long before this blog and yet we feel a kind of connection. We like that it means "the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for" and that it was listed by a U.K. translation company as one of the English language's 10 most difficult words to translate. Easy definitions are never any fun.

Back in 1754 the writer Horace Walpole wrote in a letter to a friend that he came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called "The Three Princes of Serendip."

"as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of."
Those three princes were from modern-day Sri Lanka and "serendip" is the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka.

I was reminded on today's entry on the Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor that many inventions can be attributed to some serendipity, including Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Charles Goodyear's vulcanization of rubber, inkjet printers, Silly Putty, the Slinky, chocolate chip cookies, Fleming discovering penicillin. Viagra had been developed to treat hypertension and angina pectoris, but turned out to be better at something else, just as the discoveries of radioactivity, X-rays, and infrared radiation all turned up when researchers were looking for something else.

Brother Tim and I had our reasons for choosing the name back in 2005 and, as we approach our 10 year anniversary, if you sometimes find valuable or agreeable things not sought for by reading these posts, that would please these two modern day princes of serendip very much.


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