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girlofscience's avatar

What is the difference in usage between the words "normalcy" and "normality"?

Asked by girlofscience (7527points) September 24th, 2008
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

23 Answers

lapilofu's avatar

After some research, the internet seems to agree that they’re interchangeable.

boxing's avatar

They are exactly the same, but normality is somewhat more frequently used, especially in “return to normality”.

whatthefluther's avatar

@boxing…I would use normalcy in your example (but I’m frequently in the minority)

boxing's avatar

of course, of course ;-)

One interesting fact, there is only one form of the antonym: abnormality.

whatthefluther's avatar

@boxing…that is an interesting fact. As for normalcy vs normality, maybe its a personal bias (I am often peculiar) or a generational thing (I am very, very old) but my inclination would be to use normalcy in a generalization such as “Los Angeles returned to normalcy” (btw, no chance in hell that ever happening) and use normality in a more specific case such as “the normality within that household…” (btw, do not look for any here in my home). But remember, I am old and peculiar and that’s why they call me: wtf !

GAMBIT's avatar

I take it that normalcy would mean that something is regular, usual and standard. Normality is used more as saying something is routine, or a habit.

It is a normality that I go to the lake every weekend. I haven’t caught a fish in two weeks which is becoming a normalcy that I’m not proud of because pretty soon it will be winter and the only stories I can tell is about the ones that got away.

loser's avatar

I’m afraid that anything involving the the word “Normal” just totally eludes me…

scamp's avatar

Normalcy wasn’t a word until Waren G. Harding used it in a speech after World War One. He was notorious for the mistakes he made with vocabulary. Some purists still don’t recognize it as a word.

I remember this from my tenth grade history class. I thought it was pretty interesting.

boxing's avatar

@scamp, did you actually read the article?

lapilofu's avatar

@scamp: to elaborate on boxing’s point, the article you linked (but clearly did not read) makes it pretty clear that you’re perpetuating a myth. From that article:

“A fact brought up at that time was that not only was normalcy around since 1857, or before Harding was even born, but the supposedly proper normality was only a few years older, first recorded in 1849. (Normalness was also a word of that era, but it never got very far.) Another relevant fact is that normal itself, in the familiar sense ‘standard’ (another sense, in geometry, goes back to the seventeenth century), only dates from the 1820s and was rare until the 1840s. Thus when discussing any form of normal we must remember that it is a rather recent word all of whose relevant forms appeared at about the same time.”

and finally:

“All four major American college dictionaries include normalcy without any kind of usage note. A number of prominent recent usage books accept it as standard, including Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, The Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, and The Columbia Guide to Standard American English.”

syz's avatar

I am shocked that gail has not contributed..

Lightlyseared's avatar

@scamp The OED records the first usage of normalcy in 1857 by C. Davies & W. G. Peck Math. Dict. – If we denote the co-ordinates of the point of contact, and normalcy, by x´´ and y´´. The first usage of the word normality was by E. A. Poe in Eureka 58 “In a condition of positive normality or rightfulness.”

While we’re at it the two words are interchangeable.

scamp's avatar

I’m going to say this very carefully so it doesn’t get picked apart. Yes, the word was around before Harding used it, and I probably should have said it wasn’t commonly used until that time.

@lapilofu if you had quoted the entire link , you would have included the following:

and The Columbia Guide to Standard American English; others, such as The American Heritage Book of English Usage, do not even bother to include it. Bryan Garner, who is generally conservative, still rails against it in his recent Dictionary of Modern American Usage, but he appears to be in a minority. Both words are fully standard in American English. (In British English normalcy remains a disfavored word.)

Yes, I read the article, but I probably posted too quickly between calls at work, and what I meant to say was not clear. Thanks for pointing that out.

lapilofu's avatar

@scamp: Sorry to pick you apart anyway.

The point of stating that the “The American Heritage Book of English Usage” doesn’t include it is to say that the distinction between the two words is not important enough to be included in a usage guide, not that the word is invalid. It’s a usage guide, not a dictionary. It’s a point in favor of using the word, not against it.

Bryan Garner rails against it, but is in the minority.

So the only real point against it is that they don’t use it much in Britain.

scamp's avatar

@lapilofu I don’t feel picked apart, but thanks for the apology. I was just trying to be more clear in what I was trying to convey. I am not against the use of the word. I was sharing a bit of trivia I learned years ago. I also said Some purists still don’t recognize it as a word. I guess I should have quoted the link and said it is a ‘disfavored word.” Bryan Garner would fall into the category of people who feel this way.

This has been an informative exchange, don’t you think? I’ve learned to choose my words more carefully, so I won’t be misunderstood, and not to post in threads such as this from work. Thanks again!

lapilofu's avatar

@scamp: Thanks for clarifying. I have rather enjoyed it—and I do know more than when I started!

scamp's avatar

@lapilofu You are a true gentleman!

boxing's avatar

@scamp, actually you are the one who cited the article, which clearly provides the best answer and information to this question. Thanks.

scamp's avatar

You’re welcome! I learned to be more clear when sharing information, and others learned a bit of trivia! That’s part of why I love fluther so much!

Lightlyseared's avatar

Sorry didn’t include the date on the ussage of normality by Poe – it was 1848. doh

scamp's avatar

ha ha!! see, we’ve all learned to check our work a little closer here.!

Lightlyseared's avatar

In my defence the Oxford English Dictionary people used very small print

You buying this….?

scamp's avatar

ha ha!! sure! Anything you say is fine with me!

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