A section of Armadillo, by Boyd, meditates upon Horace Walpole's coining of "serendipity", from a cheerful fairy-tale whose title includes an earlier name for Ceylon. "What is the opposite of that happy and lush land Serendip?" asks Boyd. "The far north, barren, ice-bound, cold, a world of flint and stone. Call it Zembla. Ergo: zemblanity."
Zembla is in arctic Russia, and, according to the OED, last made an appearance in Shee's Rhyme's Art. "But it's also in Pope and Nabokov," says Boyd with a casual erudition sure to tantalise those who are labouring upon the third edition of that magisterial work, the OED.Reuse content