I’m feeling lucky

The word for happiness is, often, the same as the word for luck. Today, I learned something about my own name, which I was always told meant “happiness” in Latin:

In every Indo-European language, the modern words for happiness, as they took shape in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, are all cognate with luck. And so we get ‘happiness’ from the early Middle English (and Old Norse) happ — chance, fortune, what happens in the world — and the Mittelhochdeutsch Glück, still the modern German word for happiness and luck. There is the Old French heur (luck: chance), root of bonheur (happiness) and heureux (lucky): and the Portugese felicidade, the Spanish felicidad, and the Italian felicita — all derived ultimately from the Latin felix for luck (sometimes fate).

—From the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness: 400 B.C. – A.D. 1780, Darrin M McMahon, Daedalus; Spring 2004

Many thanks to Nassim Nicholas Taleb for sending this to me!

This entry was posted in Not economics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I’m feeling lucky

  1. mike d says:

    I always knew Felix meant “happy” – I didn’t realize it also meant “lucky”. Explains why you’re living the life of Riley.

    And you’re buddies with the Black Swan himself? I’m impressed.

  2. wcw says:

    Glad you got that one. My folks spoke German around the house and I took Latin in high school, so both ‘Glück’ and ‘felix’ were familiar to me.

    Taleb answers his email, or at least he used to. I sent him a pointer to the UK researchers who purported to have found that about 1 in 4 people consistently do “better” than they should from chance alone at predicting a complex series (daily high temperatures, if memory serves). I thought it might help answer his question “why the trading floor.” He replied and thanked me and said he’d read the article. I didn’t follow up; wonder what happened with that result.

Comments are closed.