What is the meaning of ‘serendipity’?

First, let’s deal with the pronunciation. The ‘e’ in the first syllable sounds like the ‘e’ in ‘set’, ‘bet’, and ‘get’, while the ‘e’ in the second is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The ‘i’ in the third and fourth syllables and the final ‘y’ are pronounced like the ‘i’ in ‘sit’, ‘bit’, and ‘hit’. The word is pronounced ‘serendipiti’, with the stress on the third syllable ‘di’.

 

Sometimes, we make rather fortunate discoveries by sheer accident. This lucky tendency that some people have to find interesting or valuable things by chance is called ‘serendipity’. The word is considered formal, and is mostly used in literary contexts.

 

*According to the artist, some of the best effects in his garden have been the result of serendipity.

 

‘Serendip’ is the old Persian name for Sri Lanka. In the fairy tale, ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’, the main characters make wonderful discoveries by chance. The American writer, Horace Walpole, coined the word ‘serendipity’ in 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend.

 

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  March 11, 2008

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What’s the difference between ‘envelope’ and ‘envelop’?

The first is a noun and the second a verb. An ‘envelope’ is something in which you send a letter. Nowadays of course, not many people use ‘envelopes’ because they prefer email.

When used as a noun, the ‘en’ is pronounced ‘on’ and the following ‘e’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The ‘o’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘so’, ‘go’, and ‘no’, and the final ‘e’ is silent. The stress in this case is on the first syllable. The word is pronounced ‘onvelope’.

When used as a verb, the word means to surround or cover something completely. The ‘en’ is pronounced like the word ‘in’, and the following ‘e’ sounds like the ‘e’ in ‘set’, ‘bet’, and ‘get’. The ‘o’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’, and the main stress is on the second syllable. The word is pronounced ‘invelep’.

*The fog had enveloped the airport. The pilot couldn’t see a thing.

*The plan seems to be enveloped in secrecy.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  March 11, 2008

“La-la land”

“When you say that someone is in la-la land, what you mean is that they are out of touch with reality. The person has no clue what’s going on”.

For example, “I have no idea what’s going on with my cousin Ganesh. He seems to be in la-la land.”

“If you ask me, people who believe that cricket is still a gentleman’s game are living in la-la land.”

Where does the expression ‘la-la-land’ come from?”

‘LA’ is the short form of Los Angeles. People living in this city are thought to be odd or eccentric. Hence the expression ‘la-la land’.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  March 04, 2008

How is the word `etiquette’ pronounced?

The `e’ in the first syllable and the `ue’ in the third are pronounced like the `e’ in `set’, `bet’, and `pet’. The `i’ is like the `i’ in `kit’, `hit’, and `pit’, and the following `q’ is like the `k’ in `king’, `kiss’, and `kill’. The final `e’ is silent; the word is pronounced `etiket’ with the stress on the first syllable. This is one way of pronouncing the word.

Every society has its own rules and conventions which determine polite behaviour in a given social situation. Etiquette refers to the formal rules which govern `socially acceptable behaviour’. These are the rules we observe in our social and professional life.

There was a time when etiquette was considered important in our country

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

Difference between `alumni’, and `alumnae’

The `alumni’ of a university are the students who have graduated from it; the word is used to refer to both male and female students. `Alumnae’ are the female graduates of a university or college. The final `ae’ in `alumnae’ is pronounced like the `ee’ in `fees’, `bees’, and `trees’.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 26, 2008

How is the word ‘aficionado’ pronounced?

The ‘a’ in the first syllable and the ‘o’ in the third are like the ‘a’ in ‘china’; the ‘i’ in the second syllable sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘sit’, ‘pit’, and ‘hit’. The ‘c’ is like the ‘s’ in ‘sip’, ‘set’, and ‘sat’ and the ‘i’ is pronounced like the ‘y’ in ‘yes’ and ‘yell’. The ‘a’ in the fourth syllable is like the ‘a’ in ‘bath’ and ‘path’, while the final ‘o’ is like the ‘o’ in ‘so’, ‘no’, and ‘go’. The word is pronounced ‘afisyenaado’, with the stress on the fourth syllable ‘na’. This is one way of pronouncing the word.

When you say that someone is an aficionado of something, what you mean is that the person is a great fan of it; he is very interested in a particular subject, and knows a great deal about it.

Example, My boss says that his wife is an aficionado of Thai food.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 19, 2008

How is the word “extempore” pronounced?

The word consists of four syllables and not three. The first syllable ‘ex’ sounds like the ‘ex’ in ‘expect’, ‘excite’, and ‘expel’. The following ‘e’ is like the ‘e’ in ‘test’, ‘pest’, and ‘best’; the ‘o’ is like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. The final ‘e’ is like the ‘i’ in ‘pit’, ‘bit’ and ‘sit’. The word is pronounced ‘extemperi’ with the stress on the second syllable. When you give a speech ‘extempore’, you give it without really preparing for it. It’s an impromptu speech, and it’s usually given without the help of any notes.

*You must be out of your mind if you think I’m going to speak extempore.

Source: “The Hindu”   – Know Your English  Column –  Feb 12, 2008