Happen II

Humble   Thu May 24, 2007 4:09 pm GMT
I am making another attempt to get an answer, even if it were “It’s hard to say”.

“Happen” is a very frequent word, but its meaning is sometimes rather elusive. What does it convey in the following sentences?
Maybe the listener is expected to be surprised on hearing the info preceded by “happen”?

1. My wife and I happen to be engineers, as my father, grandfather, and great grandfather, and we happen to be non-Americans.
2. I happen to be an attorney, I happen to be married, I happen to be a father, I happen to be here now.
3. I happen to believe that radio is one of the best media ever invented.

What would be different in connotations if I just said instead

My wife and I are engineers …
I am an attorney…
I believe that radio …

Thank you.
Jasper   Thu May 24, 2007 5:19 pm GMT
That's a hard question to answer; but you might use the word "happen" when there's an element of surprise involved.

For example, there was a terrorist in Al Qeida named John Lindh, who happened to be an American. He was captured and is now awaiting trial in the United States.
furrykef   Thu May 24, 2007 5:57 pm GMT
"I happen to be an attorney" means something like "By chance, I am an attorney". The implication is that you might have turned out to be something other than an attorney. Perhaps you could have been a doctor instead. However, this usually has more to do with the listener's expectations than the speaker's. For instance, if somebody asks if you're a doctor, you might say, "No, I happen to be an attorney" -- even if you feel that you were always destined to become an attorney, rather than becoming an attorney due to mere chance. But the listener doesn't know that, so the fact that you're an attorney appears as a product of chance to him or her. Does that make sense?

It sounds more complicated than it actually is... after a while, you'll probably get the general sense of it. :)

- Kef
Humble   Fri May 25, 2007 6:21 am GMT
Thanks, Jasper and Kef.
BTW I did hope Kef would give a helping hand.
I myself sense it all right, and my take of it (see my 1st post) coincides with yours by the look of it - the listener's surprise involved.
The problem is how I could explain it to learners, because there's no definite Russian equivalent for it.

Actually, my last question remains unanswered - no difference?