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If somebody unintentionally creates or invents something, they ... it?

I am wondering if there is a single verb (or possibly verb-with-preposition, see examples 2 and 3 below) which catches this meaning.

A little search and thinking bring up the following options:

  1. concoct
  2. rustle up
  3. knock up (supposedly British, supposedly also having the meaning "to impregnate" which would make it a bad choice)

If you have a better one, please share, or please let me know which of the above might fit best.

Edit, Oct 4: As per request, here are two example sentences.

  • Not being quite awake yet, Sondra poured some cocoa powder into her cup of tea. After she realized what she had done, she actually took a sip, thinking that maybe she had [XXX]ed a fancy new beverage. She had not.
  • The proofreader, having no understanding of the contents of the paper, suggested different word orders for all sentences in the second paragraph. By doing this, he [XXX]ed the worst possible way of describing the machinery in question.
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    Your examples are more to do with improvisation with intent. True accidents are somewhat less common, like the ship's propeller being "invented" when a long auger used to propel a boat upstream in shallow water by digging into the bottom snapped off short. The long version didn't push the boat through the water - only over the bottom - but the broken-off one did!
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 23:21
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    Isn't this usually called a discovery?
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 23:23
  • Your question @ "discovery" is honestly a good one. We reserve a kind of reverence and intent in "discover". I know what it literally means but it doesn't connote exactly what Torsten is after. "Discover" oddly lacks emphasis on "accident" as well as "created". Discoveries can be intentional (scientist with well-reasoned hypotheses) or unintentional (or at least obscured). They can also be found rather than created and the word is often used in a context of appraisal whereas Torsten's situation could be negative. I don't know a word that does all that but it also seems like it exists. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 7:30
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    The two senses of "knock up" are usually easy to distinguish by context, so not a particularly bad choice - it takes some effort to deliberately use as a pun. But all three suggestions involve creativity, which is not what you want. Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 12:47
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    A detailed example sentence would go a long way towards clarifying the actual meaning you're looking for.
    – barbecue
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 17:45

7 Answers 7

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Fluke:

verb: achieve (something) by luck rather than skill (OxfordL)

It's informal and more often used as a noun.

Note that concoct involves using skill or ingenuity, so it does not really fit.

As an aside, it may be of interest that such discoveries or inventions are called serendipities:

The term "serendipity" is often applied to inventions made by chance rather than intent. Andrew Smith, editor of The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, has speculated that most everyday products had serendipitous roots, with many early ones related to animals. The origin of cheese, for example, possibly originated in the nomad practice of storing milk in the stomach of a dead camel that was attached to the saddle of a live one, thereby mixing rennet from the stomach with the milk stored within. (Wikipedia)

Here is an interesting article about such finds:

Science and serendipity: famous accidental discoveries

There is no verb for serendipity, though. Yet.

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    I would recommend nobody ever use fluke as a verb. It sounds flukin’ horrible.
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 22:57
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    @Jim, "fluked it" is gaining popularity.
    – Pam
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 9:28
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    @Jim: fluke as a verb was standard schoolyard slang when I was growing up (Northern England in the ’90s). But it was about achieving something not creating something — typically a stroke of luck in a game, e.g. in pool, sinking a ball with a double rebound.
    – PLL
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 14:27
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    "and more often used as a noun." Yeah, that's the first word that came to mind when I saw the question but I dismissed it because I always thought it was a noun only! The Merrian-Webster and Cambridge dictionaries seem to agree, but now I'm not sure. If you have a dictionary reference and sentence examples, would be great! Is it just a verb in slang? Couldn't find that in the Urban dictionary either...
    – Nagev
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 15:58
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    I saw the link right after I posted my comment and decided to leave it in case you had other references, since that one is tied to Google. @PLL thanks, I had a look at the third page and it's defined as a verb to mean "win against the odds" with noun examples. But anyway, it's not that uncommon to use nouns as verbs in casual English, so it makes sense. It is also defined as a verb on dictionary.com: "to gain, make, or hit by a fluke". Can't wait to fluke something so I get to use it!
    – Nagev
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 9:24
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Serendipity is

the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

MW

Also, fortuitous.

coming or happening by a lucky chance

You could use the adjective/adverb form of either to modify words such as discovery or invention.

MW

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This is harder than I first thought (like most things).

As you identified, there seem to be three parts:

  • Created
  • Unintended
  • Positive or negative.

I'm not sure I can think of one that does all this so you might have to pick a word that focusses on one or two more than the other(s).

Your options so far suggest you want something more on the created and positive/neutral side (considering, also, your comment on "knocked up").

If not, this is a good option:

Stumble upon

to discover or meet with accidentally or unexpectedly (usually followed by on, upon, or across): They stumbled on a little village. (Dictionary.com definition 5)

It emphasises more the unintended aspect and doesn't literally mean "created" but can in a colloquial/ironic/humorously self-deprecating way (e.g. "I stumbled upon a great formula for root beer").

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    "Stumbled upon" implies that there was an intended destination (or need), but that the path taken was "accidental". One can stumble either because they lack the strength to continue (the weary hiker stumbled into the tent), or because an unexpected obstacle (the refreshed hiker stepped out of the tent and stumbled over a large root covered by fallen leaves). I prefer "upon" since it sounds slightly archaic, and better fits the idiom as I learned it.
    – cmm
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 18:11
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    I also prefer "upon", because it evokes the idea of tripping over conceptually and onomatopoetically. I agree it's hard to find a word that avoids all issues. The accident is what I meant by "unintended", but I'm trying to make allowances for the shades and distinctions about which bits are intended. (I'm getting the sense you read my earlier comment.) An intended destination is part of OP's request, though (or needs clarification): how does one create something without intent? There must be an initial intention in whichever direction. Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 2:26
  • 'Stumbled upon'? They made a whole village by mistake?
    – Tim
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 11:53
  • It doesn't mean "created". See right after the example. I also said it wouldn't serve the same purpose beforehand. Often one choice or another sacrifices one of the parts OP requested. But, like most phrases in language, this can be used to mean "created" metaphorically, depending on the situation. Village isn't likely to be one. Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 5:16
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I went to Roget's Thesaurus for this, and in particular entry 484 (Discovery).

There are some good options there; the ones I think are a good fit are:

  • happen upon
  • stumble upon
  • strike (upon)
  • hit upon

In all cases, "on" could be used in place of "upon", of course.

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    All good suggestions. Just be aware that "hit on (someone)" (instead of something) has a very different meaning. Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 14:50
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica Yeah, but provided the object of that sentence is not a person, it would be pretty well understood to have the intended meaning. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 14:54
  • I like all of these, thank you. I have added two example sentences in the question. For the second example sentence, I would intutively choose "hit upon", for the first one maybe more "struck upon" or "stumble upon", although I have no clear reason why. What do you think? Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 19:56
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This phrasal verb comes close

Luck into (Merriam Webster Dictionary): to find or get (something) seemingly because of good luck.

"By-product" nearly captures "Created something by accident".

By-product (Wiktionary) A secondary product; something made incidentally during the production of something else.

P.S. There is a subtle difference between "incidentally" and "accidentally".

Incidentally:(Wiktionary) (manner) In an incidental manner; not of central or critical importance: by chance; in an unplanned way: (speech act, conjunctive) parenthetically, by the way. It's the 8240th most commonly used word in English.

Accidentally:(Wiktionary) In an accidental manner; unexpectedly; by chance; casually; fortuitously: unintentionally. It's the 7532th most commonly used word in English.

The parts in bold have the meaning "in an unplanned or unexpected way".

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    "By product" does not suggest "created by accident" at all. It simply refers to the production of something the production of which is not the primary purpose of the process. E.g., "pollutants are a by-product of the internal combustion engine", or "illness is a by-product of overcrowded housing". "Incidentally" does not mean "accidentally".
    – larsks
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 3:05
  • You made this comment "Incidentally" does not mean "accidentally". I want to know the full import. You were implying, a)That this forum member does not re-read his post before posting, b)That this forum member does not know the difference between "Incidentally" and "accidentally".
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 13:26
  • I'm afraid you're reading intent into my comment that simply isn't there.
    – larsks
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 14:52
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    You have nicely phrased your comment. I will be using that in future. "Incidentally' and "accidentally" are commonly used words. Anyone moderately versed in English know the difference between them. I have edited my answer to be more comprehensive and more to the point so as to be to be not—misread and miscomprehended.
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 11:44
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A common expression for this (or any unforeseen felicitous result) is happy accident. Collins (COBUILD) has examples of usage, including, from the Sunday Times:

As with many medical breakthroughs, his interest in the subject started through a happy accident.

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The word order makes this hard. If I "(verb)" something, how can that be unintentional yet have a specific outcome? If you would be willing to reverse the order to "it "(verb)" them" and allow a preposition, a number of possibilities open up: came to, settled upon, revealed itself to, hit, emanated from...

I know, that's cheating. The best I could come up with in original form:
The boss's departure released a torrent of new creativity.
By tripping on a loose rock, I triggered a landslide.
For lack of ingredients, I blundered into a new recipe.

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  • It wasn't there when you wrote your answer, but two examples were added recently to the question, and I think the first one nails the idea, I'm not a native speaker, but this short story feels very natural, and that's definitely something I could try to say and get stuck on a missing word in the same moment. Using word order reversal trick in this case feels very cumbersome. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:02

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