Sunday, 8 July 2012

oh for the normalcy of a normal word!

I received an email today asking about the difference between the words normality and normalcy. (Thanks for the suggestion!)

I didn't know, so I had a look in the Oxford Dictionary and found they are acceptable forms based on the word normal.  Of course, I wanted to know more about it, because I would never use the word 'normalcy', and I found a discussion in which it was thought that 'normalcy' is an American usage and 'normality' an English usage.

On the other hand, the online Macquarie dictionary (Australian English) says:
normalcy:   noun     the character or state of being normal; normality: back to normalcy.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
normalcy (n.) Look up normalcy at Dictionary.com
1857, from normal + -cy. Associated since c.1920 with U.S. president Warren G. Harding and derided as an example of his incompetent speaking style. Previously used mostly in a mathematical sense. The word prefered by purists for "a normal situation" is normality (1849).

Language Corner has more about the Warren Harding connection, saying the word was avoided in the past in the US but is now  acceptable.


After consideration, I think I'll stick to using the word 'normality'.