Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. At last. I know I’ve been dilatory about posting lately. Don’t you just love that word dilatory? Sounds just like what it means and goodness knows, Aunt Love thinks that describes me when she’s trying to get me to wash the dishes or bring the clothes in off the line. I get to it sooner or later, but she doesn’t like the later. So dilatory I am.
School’s out. Again, at last. I love the summer. I’ve been extra busy helping Dad at the newspaper. But believe me nothing much has been going on in Hollyhill to write the first news story about. I told you back when I started these reports that nothing ever happens in Hollyhill – well, except for that one year when everything happened. You can read all about it in those books somebody wrote about us. Those Heart of Hollyhill books. Do you think it’s right that somebody can write down all this stuff about you without even asking if you want to tell the world all your troubles? Well, there were plenty of good things too and the stories were fun. So I guess I won’t complain. Too much. I mean some of the things that happened were serendipitous.
Wow, another big word. I love big words. I like to just say serendipity. It means making desirable discoveries by accident. Like Charles Goodyear figuring out a way to use rubber. He’d been trying seven years but the India rubber was too sticky when warm and too brittle when cold. Then one day he accidentally brushed some India rubber and sulfur off his hands onto a hot stove and now we have rubber tires and everything.
Anyway, I was talking serendipity with Wes. Wes and I love talking about words and books and all kinds of stuff. Of course he says they had balls made of purple rubber up on Jupiter way before Goodyear figured out vulcanizing rubber down here. He says he wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some Jupiter spaceship might have bumped Goodyear’s house to make him drop that on the stove. Wes is always telling these crazy Jupiter stories.
I thought he was telling me a crazy Jupiter story about where the word serendipity came from, but he showed me the story in a book he has. It seems there was this guy back in the 1700s who wrote lots of letters, Horace Walpole, the Fourth Earl of Orford. (That sounds sort of like a Jupiter story right there.) Anyway, this Horace Walpole wrote a letter to Horace Mann and said, according to Wes’s book, “This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavor to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale, called ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of….”
So then Wes had to tell me about the Three Princes of Serendip and how they were sent out by their king father to learn about the world and then they stumbled across all these interesting discoveries and sometimes they figured things out about things they’d never seen, like a camel, by examining the clues. Something like Sherlock Holmes in his mysteries. Wes thinks that Arthur Conan Doyle must have read about the Princes of Serendip before he came up with Sherlock Holmes. Maybe he did. The best thing though is that Wes promises to tell me some stories about the Three Princes of Serendip on Jupiter. That will have to be good. But meanwhile I’ll just enjoy how the word serendipity tickles my tongue and makes me smile.
Do you love words? What words make you curious about where they came from?