[People who are] super-encounterers not only get excited about encountering information, Erdelez wrote, they may also be more sensitive than others to noticing information in their environment. Think of them as good detectives.

In fact, the origins of the word “serendipity” are tied to the detective story. In 1754, when Horace Walpole, a British politician, was writing to his friend and distant cousin about his tendency to find whatever he wanted “wherever I dip for it,” he called it “Serendipity.”

It was a word he said he coined after a fairy tale called “The Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Serendip.” “As their Highnesses travelled,” Walpole wrote, “they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” (This was not really how the fairy tale went, but it was nonetheless Walpole’s recounting of it.)

Thus the origins of the word “serendipity” lie in clues, “keen observations,” and “Sherlock Holmesian insights,” as the sociologist Robert K. Merton and Elinor Barber, a research associate, put it in The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity, a deep dive into the word’s etymology.

Rosenbloom, Stephanie. Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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