Serendipity Leads on to Etymology – Tingo, Tartle, Wabi-Sabi and the Serendipity Vortex

January 7, 2010


Wabi-Sabi and a Japanese Meaning to Life

A missed opportunity by the Greek philosophers and a lost bet of olives

If you stumbled upon this article by chance then you are about to fulfill the most important underlying rule associated with serendipity: that there is no such thing as isolated serendipity and once started you are always on a serendipitous path and possibly even on the edge of the great serendipity vortex.

You certainly weren’t thinking of etymology at this point were you? Therefore the serendipitous rule of continuous serendipity is proved because etymology is exactly where we are going right now.

Doesn’t serendipity sound so Greek based that you would bet your last pound of olives on it? Doesn’t it sound so ideal for those ancient Greek philosophical get-togethers that you would take out a mortgage on a wagon-load of olives to add to your wager?

Well wrong, and you would have lost every last olive!

Firstly the word is derived from Sanskrit and was “invented” in the 1700s by an Englishman called Horace Walpole (actually known to his friends as the 4th Earl of Orford because Horace was such an old fashioned name even in the 18th century) who was, by the way, also responsible for a development known as Strawberry Hill thereby also nicely tidying up a doubt I long had as to where that name came from for a location in the London Borough of Richmond that doesn’t have strawberries or a hill.

However what intrigued me most, as a one-time translator myself in fact, as chance would incredibly have it, in the London Borough of Richmond, was that it has received the intriguing accolade of one of the top ten most difficult words to translate in the English language according to a survey of people who ply their trade that way!

Even though it has to be said that serendipity is clearly the most impressive on the list you do want to know of the full list don’t you?
1 plenipotentiary
2 gobbledegook
3 serendipity
4 poppycock
5 googly
6 spam (I presume they don’t mean the canned meat variety)
7 whimsy
8 bumf
9 chuffed
10 kitsch

Placing the tongue on the other side of the mouth as it were. I sifted out three particularly good examples of words deemed difficult to translate back into English.

Tartle – a verb meaning to hesitate while introducing someone due to having forgotten his/her name.

Japanese (nicely striking serendipitously at the very heart of “Meaning to Life”):
Wabi-Sabi – this is a compound word with a long history, and carries a lot of meaning. Put succinctly, it’s a way of living that emphasizes finding beauty in imperfection, and accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.
For more extensive background on this sorter of the wheat from the chaff at Japanese parties please take a look at Wabi-Sabi

Pascuense (Not a language spoken just at Easter time but that of the Easter Islanders and if anybody ever reads this who speaks Pascuense would they kindly get in touch) –
Tingo – is the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.

Could tingo even be the alter-ego of wabi-sabi – by jingo?!

I will force myself to stop there before I get accused of serentripinfomy (sometimes spelled serentripinfamy).
Serentripinfomy: following a serendipitous path by tracing a sequence of interesting information endlessly.

I am sure that even my mother is now probably verging on turning her back on my blog but perhaps the hidden inference that Scottish is justifiably a language may just keep her on board!



One Response to “Serendipity Leads on to Etymology – Tingo, Tartle, Wabi-Sabi and the Serendipity Vortex”

  1. chris Says:

    Have now read your blog. Phew! another word/phrase to add to your new dictionary
    Bout ye
    common belfast for “How are you?”
    Another – craic
    Pronounced “crack” (not to be confused with a certain type of recreational chemical) meaning enjoyment or good fun.
    Up serendipity!

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