MiR 053 Shorts – Would You Like to Take a Chance?

Welcome to the Mark in Russia Podcast Network, episode # 053, and I’m your host, Mark.

You can listen to all of my podcasts at www.markinrussia.com

Today we’ll have one of our weekly Grammar Shorts, which are short podcasts which concentrate on a narrow issue of Grammar, typically 5 to 7 minutes in length.

Today we’ll talk about words which convey the meaning of “chance”, but to differing degrees and in sometimes different situations.

Chance is both a noun and a verb, but today we’ll concentrate on the noun. The word “chance” is usually used as a noun. First a couple of definitions:

a. The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.

b. A force assumed to cause events that cannot be foreseen or controlled; luck: Chance will determine the outcome.

But let’s work at expanding our vocabulary a bit drilling down in order to be more specific.

Here are a couple of words that get confused sometimes, “Fortuity” and “Fortunate”.

The definition of “fortunate” is:

1. having good luck; lucky

2. occurring by or bringing good fortune or luck; auspicious

As you can see from the definition, “fortunate” is used in a positive context. If you want to use it in a negative context, you need to use the “un” prefix, or, “unfortunate”.

The word “fortuity” can be used in either a positive or negative context.

Fortuity means “happening by chance,” and not necessarily a lucky chance. Don’t use it interchangeably with fortunate.

As an Adjective: fortuitous

As an adverb: fortuitously

Let’s take a short joke break and when we return I’ll tell you my personal favorite word related to the word, “chance”.

Jimmy Jam Stinger

Today I’ll tell a few mother in law jokes again.

Two guys were talking at work.
“I’ve got a problem,” said the first one.
“What is it?”
“My wife has done it to me again.  I’m supposed to buy my mother-in-law a present for her birthday, from the two of us.  And, I am fresh out of ideas.  I mean, it’s HER mother, why can’t she buy it?”
“What did you buy her last year?” the other one asked.
“Last year I bought her a VERY EXPENSIVE cemetery plot.”
“Hmmmm, hard to top that one,” said the other.
The two guys couldn’t come up with anything. So the son-in-law didn’t buy his mother-in-law anything for her birthday.
When the big day arrived the next weekend, she was a bit upset.  At the family gathering for her birthday, she announced out loud to everyone, “Thank you all for the wonderful gifts.  Too bad my daughter and son-in-law weren’t so thoughtful!”
Thinking quickly, the son-in-law responded, “Well, you haven’t used the gift I gave you last year!”

Here is a definition of mixed emotions:

seeing your mother-in-law drive over the cliff in your new car.

And one more:

there is the joke about the guy who was told by his doctor that he has only 6 months to live.  He decides to move in with his mother-in-law, because living with her for 6 months will seem like forever.

Next comes one of my favorites, “serendipity”.

Serendipity means: the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. It describes positive outcomes.

The word “Serendipity” was first used by a British writer named Horace Walpole. Walpole formed the word based on an old name for Sri Lanka,Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of “a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of….”


It must be pretty cool to actually invent a word, or in terms of English, we would say to “coin a word” or “coin a phrase”. Both mean to be the first person to use this word or phrase. Plus, the word, “Serendipity” just plain sounds nice!

As an adjective: serendipitous

As an adverb: serendipitously

Our next word is, “fortuity – anything that happens suddenly or by chance without an apparent cause; “winning the lottery was a happy accident”; “the pregnancy was a stroke of bad luck”; “it was due to an accident or fortuity”.

Another word is:

desultory – marked by lack of definite plan or regularity or purpose; jumping from one thing to another; “desultory thoughts”; “the desultory conversation characteristic of cocktail parties”

and still another is:

happenstance – an event that might have been arranged although it was really accidental, synonym co·in·ci·dence

Well, I’m going to end today’s Quick Grammar Tip here. There really are a lot of related words which we can use to describe “chance” and varying degrees of chance.

Thanks for listening till the end of the podcast and I hope to bring you a new Quick Grammar Tip next week, until that time, Goodbye!

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