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HAPPENSTANCE

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HAPPENSTANCE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:17 am

• happenstance •

Pronunciation: hæp-ên-stæns • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A chance happening, a fortuitous circumstance or situation.

Notes: Today's word is an amalgam or blend of two words, happening and circumstance. Blends are words that are created by smushing two words together while adding up their meanings. Other examples include smog (smoke + fog), motel (motor + hotel), brunch (breakfast + lunch).

In Play: Happenstance is usually an event or state that arose out of sheer luck: "Anita Job found her new position by sheer happenstance: she applied for the job the day it opened up by sheer chance." Happenstance is a good excuse for much of what happens around us: "So it was happenstance that the cookie jar fell off the counter; no one put their hand in it, right?"

Word History: This word is a blend of happen[ing + circum]stance. Happening is, of course, the noun from happen. This verb, in turn, is built on the noun hap "fortune, happening", which Middle English borrowed from Old Norse happ. The sense of "fortune" made its way into happy, hapless and mishap. Circumstance comes from circumstan(t)s, the present participle of circumstare "to stand around", so that a circumstance is the surroundings, things that stand around an event or situation. (Today's word is a contribution of Doug Coppock, whose musical group just happens to be called Happenstance. )
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Postby joshua » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:35 am

i like this word, seems like a less dippy way of saying serendipity, which always felt awkward to me. just looked up that word, and it comes from a story "The Three Princes of Serendip" (Horace Walpole). Serendip is Arabic for Sri Lanka, which all y'all smart folk probably knew already, but i did not. anyone ever read Walpole's serendipitous opus?
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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:28 am

Voilà!

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Postby joshua » Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:22 am

Thank you Mr. Brazilian Dude. And I guess I was wrong about serendipity and happenstance, since serendipity doesn't seem to allow for negative eventualities. Happenstance does, but I have decided that it is not the best portmanteau word ever. It seems an unwieldy choice over 'chance,' and doesn't justify the extra syllables with a meaning greater than the sum of its parts. Anyhow, I'm very happy to have found this forum, and I thank you all in advance for putting up with my nonsense.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:46 am

The more nonsense, the merrier.

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SERENDIPITY & HAPPENSTANCE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Feb 01, 2006 12:38 am

Serendipity actually has a more specific meaning: "unexpected discovery while looking for or expecting something else". But it is true that it is always happy accidence while the word with "happy" in it, happenstance, is not.
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