Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Serendipitous Tragedy” – Kenneth Feinberg’s Oxymoron on NPR This Morning

If you heard the “Sunday Conversation” feature on this morning’s NPR “Weekend Edition,” you were probably as taken aback as I was by the extremely articulate and well-spoken Kenneth Feinberg’s erroneous choice of words toward the very end of the interview, when he referred to recent American tragedies such as Sept. 11, Virginia Tech, Aurora (Colorado), and the Boston Marathon bombings as “serendipitous.” 

The adjective serendipitous is inapplicable when describing those horrendous and deeply unsettling events because it strictly refers to something that happened or was discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial or agreeable way. Serendipitous is not one of those descriptors that are packed with multiple or ambiguous senses—words such as fulsome.

BTW, I am an admirer of Mr. Feinberg. For instance, while profiling the word “stolid” in the March/April 2013 edition of my “Words of the Month,” I wrote the following:
·        Kenneth Feinberg, who has become America’s go-to guy for administering victim assistance funds (including the one just set up for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings) partly because of his stolid disposition--a personal quality that is essential for the fair and dispassionate handling of claimants whose stories are brimming with intense pain and suffering

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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