Friday, May 16, 2014


 by Sandy Cody

Do you have favorite words? I do. Serendipity (a seeming gift for making fortunate discoveries accidentally) is high on my list of darlings.

It comes from a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, in which three princes are sent on a quest by their father and discover wonderful things for which they were not looking.

I only learned recently about the fairy tale origin of the word and, when I did, I instantly thought of Albert Einstein's statement that “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.” He's right, of course. Not only will their imaginations take flight, they'll probably discover something they didn’t know they were looking for - and so will you.

Whatever its source, serendipity is an impressive word. Some words please because of the way they sound, others because of what they mean. Serendipity works on both counts. When you say it out loud, the five syllables produce a tripping sound, forcing the lips into a smile.  It starts slow and then picks up speed until it tumbles out, like it’s rushing toward a happy surprise, which, of course, fits its meaning perfectly.

There are other words that mean almost the same thing - chance, fate, destiny, karma, fortune, coincidence, accident, kismet - but for my money, none of them quite measure up to serendipity.

Not only is it a great word, it’s an appealing concept, a reason to leave ourselves open to the unexpected, to pay attention to where life may be trying to take us. Who knows what wonderful things may be waiting to be discovered? History books are filled with examples of happy accidents.

I understand chocolate chip cookies were created by a serendipitous accident (thank you!), as was the discovery of penicillin (more thanks). The microwave oven was invented when Percy Spencer noticed that the microwaves from a radar set he was working on melted the candy bar in his pocket.

As for me, I met the love of my life when I cut an algebra class to go ice skating.  How could I not appreciate serendipity?

How about you? What serendipitous events have changed your life?


  1. Ah, for me, it's Kismet. (We even named our dog, Kismet!) Whatever word you choose, I'm a firm believer. Things happen for a reason. Thanks for posting an interesting message, Sandy!

  2. What a fun post!

    My favorite word is Ephiany!

  3. Thanks, Gina and Jayne, for adding two more great words. Each has a nice sound as well many layers of meaning.

  4. My favorite word (today) is "finished"!

  5. Ah, Sofie - a word that hints at a more than it says. Good word.

  6. Actually, my "favorite word is...actually.
    I seem to, actually, use it frequently.
    In fact I made using it one of my heroine's quirks.
    Thanks for interesting.

  7. Actually, Mitzi, I use it quite a bit myself.

  8. Sandy, "serendipity" is one of my favorite words as well. Although I can't think of any life-altering examples, I know there have been small moments for me that definitely smacked of serendipity.

  9. Sometimes those small moments mean a great deal to our lives. Thanks for sharing that, Sydell.

  10. A wonderful post, Sandy! I wonder if you told your kids early on that it's cool to cut classes in order to gather great new experience ;-) - When I moved to a new town, I looked for an apartment to share and had trouble to find something. In the end, the woman at the hotel where we stayed recommended someone, and she's now my best friend here in this new town. Funny enough, the woman at the hotel hardly knew my best friend and she's still wondering how she came to recommend her. That was serendipity! A word I only learned after twenty years or so of speaking English. And a word that doesn't exist in German. Which is a shame!

  11. LOL - No, Beate, I never told my kids that it was cool to cut classes. However, they seemed to know it instinctively. Funny about your best friend too. The German language may not include a word for serendipity, but I know it has a lot of deliciously complex words.

  12. Sandy--
    Fun, fun, fun! You mentioned some of my favorite words in this post. I hadn't thought about where the words came from before.

  13. Thanks, Victoria. I SO agree - words are fun, fun, fun.