When I was writing notes for chapter 2 of "Treasure Island" as part of my studying for my upcoming English exam, I wrote, winter is when the happenings of chapter 2 take place. I quickly scrubbed it out and placed incidents rather than happenings. Then I thought to myself, is it ok to use "happenings" with an "s" instead of incidents. So I went to a thesaurus and checked that "happening" is one of the synonyms of "incident". So my question is can I use "happening" with an "s" as in "happenings" as a synonym for "incident"?
You are unlikely to come across a reputable dictionary not giving just the bland and obvious
- 'happening: something that happens / has happened; an event / occurrence'
definition for the primary sense. And then the 'extravaganza' sense.
This is misleading, not reflecting the restrictions found with the use of 'happening/s'.
Collins Cobuild rightly gives a caveat:
- Happenings are things that happen, often in a way that is unexpected or hard to explain.
There can also be a sense that the events are amusing and/or interesting/exciting. I'd say that this is true for for chapter 2 of "Treasure Island". Yes, 'happenings' works here, while 'incidents' somehow seems out of register for a historical reference. But note that most people would use 'events' here.
In passing, Cobuild classes 'happening/s' as a count noun. I dispute this, as '3/17/a couple of happenings' isn't idiomatic. But it can certainly be used in singular or plural form.