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A Fortuitous Comment

I was watching a game the other day, and must have heard every lucky bounce of the ball referred to as fortuitous. It’s not so much that the usage was wrong; it’s just that it does nothing to clarify the situation.

Fortuitous doesn’t mean lucky—it means occurring by chance. So if a tree on your property—the only tree on your property—gets uprooted in a windstorm and lands on your roof when it could have gone any one of another 340º on the compass and missed the house entirely, that’s fortuitous. It isn’t lucky; in fact, it’s unfortunate…which brings me to the word the TV commentator should be using: the very simple and effective word fortunate.

Fortuitous is another example of reverse sophistication. I don’t know if it’s true in other countries, but it sure does happen a lot in America. We pride ourselves on our linguistic casualness, coining new words and phrases all the time without regard for any grammatical accuracy.

  •      My bad.

  •      A fun time.

  •      That impacted me.


And yet, when we get a chance to use a simple and correct word in its most logical way, we opt for something unnecessary or incorrect.

Like opt.




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