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Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 technology  research  practice

A Research Tip

  • Research & Writing

Properly, it’s normality.

Just as formal leads to formality and final to finality.

But one does also see normalcy, as in this recent New York Times piece.

You won’t see the word normalcy as much outside the US, however. (And whether one has seen the concept there since 2016 is another question entirely.)

Although normalcy was used as early as 1857, the word really only came into its own in 1920, when Warren G. Harding used a return to normalcy as his campaign slogan in that year’s presidential election. He meant the conditions that had existed before WWI and the Spanish flu pandemic that came in its wake.

Harding was ridiculed by the word nerds of the day, but he won the election handily — and the word gained currency.

Normality has a slight edge in terms of history: the earliest example cited in the OED is 1839. But it’s also close to the post-classical Latin normalitas (‘the state of being governed by rules or norms’), seen as far back as the 11th century.

I’d go with normality (and let’s hope it returns soon).

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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