Monday Musings by Ben Liske: What is Normal?

ben liskeNormal. If you are one of my Facebook “friends”, you have probably observed my thoughts on “normal”. If you are one of the number of those “friends” who commented on my status, I have heard your thoughts on “normal” as well. Some were interesting, some were funny, and others were simply real opinions.

For those of you who haven’t seen those posts, here’s what I thought on the subject:
“Nothing is normal. Who invented the idea of normal? There has never been one way the universe is, only an ideal of what it should be, and even those are not perfect — or normal. Perfect is not normal […].”

Afterwards, I commented on my own post about the origin of the word “normal” and presented my conclusion on the word itself.

“Our and Spanish’s word ‘normal’ comes from the Latin ‘norma’ (our ‘norm’) for ‘carpenter’s square’. From ‘norma’ is derived ‘normalis’ and ‘normal’, derived from ‘normalis’, came to mean ‘right-angled’ in the mid-seventeenth century […].”

Thus, I concluded, ‘normal’ was a right-angled carpenter’s square. This contrasts with what we call normal. Right angles are really hard to make precisely, which is inferred by this definition of normal.
What is wrong with our use of ‘normal’ today is that it has come to suggest averageness and inconspicuousness. If someone is ‘normal’ in our language, it means you don’t really notice them because their normalness is something that is boring or without contrast to their environment.
But the original idea of ‘normal’ was perfection, something that couldn’t be reached, or an ideal.
Remember those comments I mentioned? A couple of them are quite noteworthy, so here they are to conclude this blog…

“Normal is what each individual perceives something to be according to THEIR standards. What may be normal to me may be way off target for someone else.”

“Normal is a setting on the dryer! Haha!”
– Ben Liske