Friday 23 March 2012


I have just discovered something that satisfies many of my geekinesseses...which isn't a word.

Ironic really, since words and language and the origins of such are the subject of this here post.

I've been so concerned here with the meaning of happiness, and the science of it and the bits and bobs that help you get it that I've not once considered the origins of the word itself. Which is totally bonkers as I am a bit of a geek when it comes to language and etymology.

So, imagine my delight when  I stumbled upon a blog this evening that talks of this very thing!

Seems there's a bit of a debate as to when it first appeared in the wonderfully eccentric language that is English with some sources saying it wasn't until the 16th Century but others finding evidence of 'happy' appearing earlier in the 14th Century.

Regardless of when it came into being, it seems we're all agreed that it originates from the stem 'hap'. Which if you think about it crops up quite a lot, in words like 'happenstance', 'mishap', 'haphazard', 'perhaps' and 'hapless'. Where 'hap' means 'chance' or 'good luck'.  I actually can't believe I hadn't spotted this before.

In fact, it turns out a lot of the earlier European words for happy originally meant "lucky" apart from the Welsh word which when first used actually meant "wise".

Seems the Welsh were onto something here! I'm with them on this one. There's really nothing lucky about it.

Happiness has little to do with chance and good fortune but much to do with the choices you make, the opportunities you grab, the view you choose to take.   Being unlucky simply means not being open to the opportunities life presents, being closed to possibility.

Wisdom is in fact key, as the Welsh suggested all along. Even the serenity prayer says so:

"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."

But, you could say that this post has fortuitously come as a result of my  accidentally 'happening' upon some other article, which in turn made me happy. But did I really 'happen' upon it? Or did I choose the path myself by setting out on this happiness journey in the first place, and signing up to the blogs and newsletters I thought would most enrich and entertain me along the way? And then dedicating time every day to reading them?

Some people have all the luck. But only because they set out to have it.


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please do join in the makes me happy!