Saturday Scenes

Thu 2 February 2012


Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 23:17

On the 28th of January in 1754, Horace Walpole made up a new word, serendipity.

He based the word on a Persian fairy tale,The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes were “always making discoveries by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Serendip is an ancient Arab name for Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon). Ceylon was likely a mispronunciation/contraction of Serendip which came from the Arabic Sarandib which came from the Sanskrit Simhaladvipa, which translates as Dwelling-Place-of-Lions Island. In 2004, Today Translations included serendipity in position number three of English words most difficult to translate. The top two were plenipotentiary and gobbledegook.

When Serendipity becomes Zemblanity

History supports the more nuanced meaning through significant examples of accidental and sagacious discovery. There is Columbus’s discovery of America, Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin and Alfred Nobel’s discovery of dynamite. Conversely, there have been some extraordinary uses of the word. My favourite is the 1992 catalogue for women’s underwear, on the cover of which “serendipity” was emblazoned without explanation. Then there’s the following nugget of wisdom found on the Internet in 2001: “Serendipity: when love feels like magic you call it destiny. When destiny has a sense of humour you call it serendipity.”

And what of zemblanity? In 1998, William Boyd decided we needed an antonym for serendipity. He coined the term zemblanity: “making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design”. Talk about untranslatable!

Zemblanity is not something that has ever occurred here on SatScenes. Take a look at this week’s set, full of happy, lucky and unexpected discoveries; discoveries which took place because so many people took the time to look for a photograph and share it with us:

And these are the serendipitious people who took them:

Did you know that you can find out what people are up to on other days of the week? Just take a look at the Twitter list for Saturday Scenes of 2012!

If you submitted a photograph this year, you have been added to the list. It’s fun to watch it grow as the year progresses.

And if you haven’t submitted yet – join us! Just take a photograph on Saturday and send the link to @SatScenes with the location! It’s easy and fun and we love seeing new sights.

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