Seeking a proper synonym

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lizmonster

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This isn't precisely a grammar question, but I don't think it rises to the level of brainstorming. Apologies, though, if I'm in the wrong place.

CW: ableist language.

I'm looking for an alternative to the term "dumb luck." I've done the usual google thing, but phrases like "happenstance" or even "sheer luck" don't quite have the same connotation as "we stumbled into something fortunate, having neither attempted to plan nor applied our intellects in the direction of that something."

"Dumb luck" is potentially more idiomatic than other uses of the word "dumb," and might be less objectionable. But I'm trying to be more careful about word choice.

Any ideas?
 
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CMBright

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Some random ideas in no particular order:

Pure luck
Pure chance
Coincidence

Get creative:
X was about as likely as winning the lottery/getting struck by lightning/getting hit by a meteor?
We fell into an outhouse and came out with a gold nugget.

A data point:
To me, pure luck, sheer luck and dumb luck sound the same as far as things going someone's way without planning or trying, giving two choices to avoid the last one.

It was sheer luck he won that medal, I know he never practiced.
It was pure luck he won that medal, I know he never practiced.
 

lizmonster

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Thanks - I may try "sheer" and see how it reads.

The context is one character asking another how the human race has survived this long. "Sheer luck" is close, but it doesn't have the same connotation. The implication is we've done absolutely everything we can to destroy ourselves, and yet somehow we're still here. "Sheer" doesn't quite give the same "foolhardy and deeply unintelligent" vibes, but it may be enough.
 

Roxxsmom

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I don't know that there is a "go to" phrase that conjures up the same overall "feel" as the term "dumb luck" in this context. Maybe "blind luck," or "the blind pig found the acorn," or is that problematic too?

I always thought that the term "dumb" used here referred to generic stupidity, and not the antiquated pejorative for people who are unable to speak.

But if it's dialog, wouldn't these people just use the term without thinking about it? Or are they living in a time where it's reasonable to assume "dumb luck" has died out as a go-to idiom?

Make up a new one? "Sheer fumbling luck"? "Flailing luck"?
 
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neandermagnon

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I don't know that there is a "go to" phrase that conjures up the same overall "feel" as the term "dumb luck" in this context.

I always thought that the term "dumb" used here referred to generic stupidity, and not the antiquated pejorative for people who are unable to speak.

In British English, dumb means mute and it wasn't a pejorative term until American usage of the word got imported over here. I've always hated the American usage as when I was younger I didn't realise it was American dialect and thought Americans were just using a word for a disability as an insult - the same as how many other words for disabilities are used as insults.

There are lots of common usages of dumb in the context of mute, e.g. "he was struck dumb" i.e. so shocked he was unable to speak. I'm guessing this is only in British English?

ETA: it's no longer acceptable to be used for inability to speak - mutism is the preferred term as far as I'm aware.
 

lizmonster

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There are lots of common usages of dumb in the context of mute, e.g. "he was struck dumb" i.e. so shocked he was unable to speak. I'm guessing this is only in British English?

No, that's used here as well.

It is dialogue - one person saying it, and another, many chapters later, remembering the phrase.
 
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Paul Lamb

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I wonder if you're misleading yourself with the word "luck." The suggestions are just variations on the original term, but they don't really add anything (other than perhaps mitigating the "dumb" part).

But maybe you could look at it from a different point of view. It's not luck that allowed humans to survive (after all, there is no such thing as luck, not really) but perhaps "doggedness" or "contrariness" or "meanness" or "stubbornness." Or you could take the Star Trek perspective and say "nobleness" (nobility) is what's gotten them through despite themselves.
 
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lizmonster

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But maybe you could look at it from a different point of view. It's not luck that allowed humans to survive (after all, there is no such thing as luck, not really) but perhaps "doggedness" or "contrariness" or "meanness" or "stubbornness." Or you could take the Star Trek perspective and say "nobleness" (nobility) is what's gotten them through despite themselves.

Nah, it was luck. :)
 
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lizmonster

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Was it luck, or was it damn luck to make it through the stupidity?
The character in question is talking about things that happened centuries before she was born, and she's not much of a historian. "Dumb luck" is the best summary she can come up with.
 

Roxxsmom

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There are lots of common usages of dumb in the context of mute, e.g. "he was struck dumb" i.e. so shocked he was unable to speak. I'm guessing this is only in British English?
I've certainly seen that one in books, though I don't know that folks use it in conversation much here, at least in recent years. Nowadays, people are more likely to say, "I have no words," or "She was beyond words" or something like that.

I don't know when "dumb" became a synonym for stupid here, but it's been used that way since I was small. I remember running across the term "dumb animals" in older books, and assuming the people were (rather unfairly) saying all animals were stupid, but in reality they meant they couldn't speak.

I always knew that Tommy was that "deaf, dumb, and blind kid" because he couldn't speak, not because he was stupid, however. Context, I guess.

ETA: it's no longer acceptable to be used for inability to speak - mutism is the preferred term as far as I'm aware.

That's definitely true here as well.

There are a whole slew of "everyday" words that refer to being stupid--idiot, moron, cretin etc.--that once were used as official diagnoses for varying levels of intellectual disability but became generic insults. I try not to use them, but I will admit that "idiotic" still slides from my tongue (and pen) too easily.

Given that my character is very sweary, I could make it even more interesting.
I actually thought of the way luck rhymes with another word when I wrote those...

It could be fun to come up with profane, futuristic idioms here.
 

CMBright

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The character in question is talking about things that happened centuries before she was born, and she's not much of a historian. "Dumb luck" is the best summary she can come up with.

Well, you did say the character swears a lot, she might have gotten the phrase wrong. Or just likes her version better.
 
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llyralen

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The character in question is talking about things that happened centuries before she was born, and she's not much of a historian. "Dumb luck" is the best summary she can come up with.
Replying with “Dumb luck” has a slightly shocking effect with the sound and word meaning which I think might be good as is?

If she were a slightly scientific person I’d suggest: “It’s a red herring.” Which you say a lot with studies. Meaning information outside of the norm and unexplainable and incongruous— information to be discarded, basically when forming a conclusion.

If you don’t like “dumb luck” I think I would consider comparing the chances to something in a metaphor that suits your character’s tone. “Dumb luck. Same chances a flamingo could carry a polar bear to Hong Kong.” I’m not saying to use this image!!! Don’t steal it!!! Actually do please take it…. But a monkey let loose in a lab, causing havoc, knocking beakers together accidentally discovering the cure for cancer. Like that maybe?
 
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lizmonster

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Replying with “Dumb luck” has a slightly shocking effect with the sound and word meaning which I think might be good as is?

I like the rhythm and the connotation of "dumb luck." I don't like that it's ableist.

I do need something pithy, which is why that phrase works so well, but I'll keep thinking. :)
 
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Oscar1

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Dumb luck has a negative feel to me as a reader, as if it was undeserved.
Why it is important that the luck would be dumb? A dumb luck can be a strange coincidence that isn't as dumb.

And Jane Austen would turn dumb luck into an uplifting "a fortunate chance" Still a dumb luck, but one you receive with pride and prejudice.
 
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lizmonster

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Dumb luck has a negative feel to me as a reader, as if it was undeserved.

I mean, that's actually the implication: something incredibly unlikely and undeserved happened. So the connotation is important.

And Jane Austen would turn dumb luck into an uplifting "a fortunate chance" Still a dumb luck, but one you receive with pride and prejudice.

Fortunately, I am not Jane Austen :)
 

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"Heisenberg's astonishment"?

"Felicitous success"?

"A stroke of luck"?

"Gambler's delight"?
 
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lizmonster

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Okay - here's the passage, hopefully short enough (since this isn't SYW). But you can see what I'm going for. (Currently, btw, I'm planning to leave "dumb luck," unless I come up with something better.)

There was another long pause, and I started to think most of our twenty-five minutes was going to be eaten up by her dithering. "How is it humanity did not die out?"

She sounded genuinely incredulous, and I realized, as I frantically paged in the history I'd largely ignored while I was being schooled, that I didn't have a good answer for her. "The period when the evac ships left Earth isn't my specific area of study." I don't know why I couldn't just tell her I was ignorant. "But as far as I know, we survived the way we always do."

"How is that?"

"Dumb luck."

She made a sound, and I had to listen for a second before I realized she was laughing.