Home » Daily Dose » Much Ado About Normal

Much Ado About Normal

What exactly is normal?  People use that word a lot.  Normal weight.  Normal blood pressure.  Normal diet.  Normal (i.e., REAL) job.  Or as we say sometimes in our house, “back to normal.”  In the words of one of my favorite characters ever (apologies in advance for the poor quality):

Just sayin’.

From Merriam-Webster online:

According to Merriam-Webster “normal” is an adjective.  Well hell.  It’s been a LOT of damn years since I was in English class.  My first guess is that an adjective describes something.  Am I right? Huh?  Do I win?  Not really. 

Again according to M-W, an adjective is a “modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named….”  So “normal” modifies nouns.  Modifying is similar to changing, correct?  I think I’m safe there.  Maybe looking at the actual definition will help: 

Definition of NORMAL

1: perpendicular; especially : perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency
2a: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle 
  b: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
3: occurring naturally <normal immunity>
4a: of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development
  b : free from mental disorder : sane
5a of a solution : having a concentration of one gram equivalent of solute per liter
  b: containing neither basic hydroxyl nor acid hydrogen <normal silver phosphate> 
  c: not associated <normal molecules> 
  d: having a straight-chain structure <normal butyl alcohol>
6 of a subgroup : having the property that every coset produced by operating on the left by a given element is equal to the coset produced by operating on the right by the same element
7: relating to, involving, or being a normal curve or normal distribution <normal approximation to the binomial distribution>
8 of a matrix : having the property of commutativity under multiplication by the transpose of the matrix each of whose elements is a conjugate complex number with respect to the corresponding element of the given matrix

Um, not so much.  Although perhaps 4a and b are the closest to what your “man-on-the-street” thinks normal means.  But when you see all the other meanings…it’s a bit overwhelming.   I’m no English expert (I had one – count it – ONE English course in college many, many years ago) and I don’t get it.  And guess what?  I. Do. Not. Care. 

Plus?  Nowhere on this list is my go-to definition for normal (it’s a setting on the clothes dryer for heaven’s sake!).  Unless it falls under one of those weirdly-worded dealy-bobs up there.  That’s right – dealy-bob.  It’s a technical term. 

Besides, Google knows all and Google says Normal is a town in Illinois.  Seriously.  Look it up. 


6 thoughts on “Much Ado About Normal

  1. I’ve noticed that people seem to get called “weird” when they get really excited about something, so I’ve always thought “normal” applied to people who don’t get that excited about anything. Sounds pretty boring to me.

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