Words we hate: normalcy - the virus within a virus
By Alex Blyth, Editorial Director and Managing Partner
The past year has been the strangest and most disorientating time of our lives, and we’ve all been grasping at anything that feels normal. Whether that’s hunkering down with Friends re-runs, digging out trusted favourite outfits from the back of the wardrobe, or just picking up the phone to our mums more often, we’ve all been seeking the comfort of the reassuringly normal.
It’s been tough, but we’re all doing our best to get through it together.
But I can’t help thinking about one niggling detail that makes me feel like life will never return to normal. It’s not clownish politicians, it’s not fashion masks, and it’s not elbow bumps over high fives. It’s the word ‘normalcy’.
There is frankly nothing that makes me feel more like life will never return to normal than the word ‘normalcy’.
OK, it’s acceptable if you’re American. It was after all US Presidential candidate Warren Harding who popularised it, back in 1920. Trying to appeal to an electorate keen to move on after the trauma of the First World War and Spanish flu, he ran his campaign on the promise of a ‘return to normalcy’.
But for people, here in the UK, I personally can’t see any excuse for using ‘normalcy’. ‘Normality’ does the job perfectly well thanks very much.
But I’m fighting a rising tide. TV pundits talk up normalcy stocks for us to invest in. News channels ask if the election of President Biden will bring a return to normalcy.
Not if you keep using the word normalcy it won’t.
He can make everyone wear masks 24/7, he can re-sign every climate accord he can find, he can even return White House press briefings to the land of the sane – it’ll all be undone by ‘normalcy’. If we don’t take action ‘normalcy’ will keep spreading from rolling news outlet, to eager politician, into our homes and our families. A virus within a virus. And we’ll never feel normal again. We’ll just feel queasy. Disconcerted.
It’s entirely possible we’ll quash COVID-19, but still want to keep social distancing in case we get too close to someone who announces “Hey – we’re returning to normalcy!”
So please, please can we stop it now? Before it’s too late. If we all pull together, we can do this. To echo one of Prime Minister Johnson’s finest comic interventions from 2020, “If we all follow the rules, we can send this thing packing in twelve weeks”.
Or was it by Christmas? Or Easter? Who knows – we’ve all lost track. One day we’ll get rid of this virus, and we will return to normality. I can’t wait.