Sunday, November 21, 2021

Normality vs normalcy - which is more mornal?

As the pandemic continues to grind on, we hear many politicians and healthcare spokespeople (and even just regular folks) regularly talk about "returning to normality" or "returning to normalcy". But, wait, what's the difference?
Well, apparently there is no real difference. "Normality" has a longer pedigree, dating from the 16th century, while "normalcy" is first noted being used in an obscure mathematical sense in the 1950s, and did not become widely used until the 1920s, as a result of US President Warren G. Harding post-war "Return to Normalcy" campaign (it should be noted that he used it essentially in error, and not deliberately as a result of the earlier mathematical context). Nouns that end in "-cy" are usually based on adjectives that end in "-t" (e.g. "hesitant" > "hesitancy", "complacent" > "complacency" etc), so "normalcy" is not even a logical derivation or back formation.
Both words are now considered legitimate, although English dictionaries are likely to note that "normalcy" is a "chiefly US" usage. Google's Ngram Viewer shows that "normality" remains about three times more frequently used  than "normalcy" in books.
Me, I'll stick to normality, but then I'm of superior British stock...

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