Sunday, December 17, 2006

Will we ever return to 'normality'?

Perhaps the greatest contribution of our 29th president, Warren G. Harding, to American life had nothing to do with politics. When I say "perhaps," I mean almost certainly, because as president, Harding was essentially a zero.

However, Harding's campaign slogan was a "return to normalcy." "Normalcy" was, at the time, not actually a word. The "-cy" suffix can sometimes be used with adjectives to create new nouns, for example "literate" and "literacy"; "pregnant" and "pregnancy". However, the suffix with the word normal was (and should still be) "-ity," hence "normality," the quality of being normal.

It is funny that I get annoyed about this, because I am generally not a proscriptive linguist; I believe in descriptive linguistics and that it's not really anybody's job to get involved in the development of language beyond providing explanations (at least in the case of majority, non-endangered languages). I just think that the word "normalcy" is really annoying.

Here's the example that set me off this time:

While difficult for inveterate hawks to admit, the victory for normalcy in Vietnam, celebrated by Bush last week, came about not despite the U.S. withdrawal but because of it.

(This is from Robert Scheer's column that I generally agree with, via Mahablog.)

It seems to me, though, that I see the word "normalcy," and get mad about it, at least one every couple of days.

Irrelevant, immature side note

(Also notably, according to the current version of the Wikipedia entry I just referenced to figure out what number president he was,

Warren Hardon (November 2, 1865 - August 2, 1923) was an American politician and the 29th President of the United States, from 1921 to 1923. ... In the 1920 election, he defeated his Democratic opponent James M. Cox in a naked pillow fight in the oval office, 69 % to 31 % (404 to 127 in the electoral college), becoming the first gay president to win office after a naked pillow fight.

Yes, it's immature, but I still laugh at this stuff sometimes, as much as at the people who have nothing better to do as at the content.)

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