I've decided that I would like to eliminate the word normal from my vocabulary.
According to Roget's Thesaurus, "Normal implies conformity with the established norm or standard for its kind." Synonyms listed include ordinary, usual, regular, typical, natural, average, common, run of the mill.
So if you don't conform to the establish norm, you're not normal? Who established that norm and did they ever tell us what it is?
I don't think normal has any synonyms that carry the same weight as it does. Common and average, I like to use. Those are tangible concepts, you can measure them. But what's normal? One can ask "What's the average age for a woman to get married?" then do research and come up with a number. When you ask "What's the normal age for a woman to get married?" that puts a different spin on things.
Part of my motivation to discard the word normal has come from my work in the flower shop. Each week we receive shipments of fresh cut flowers. I can have a bucket of 36 red roses and while they all look the same at first glance, each one is a tiny bit different. Instead of holding up a flower with misshapen petals and asking "Is this normal?" I've learned to ask "Is this one okay to use?" because there is a wide range of traits that are considered acceptable. This should apply to all living things!
My thesaurus states that abnormal means strange, irregular, unnatural, unusual. Every time we say "That's not normal," what we're actually saying is "That's strange and unnatural," but I don't think that's what we usually mean.
As a writer, my thesaurus is my favorite tool and helps me hone my craft. When I write a first draft, I write by hand, putting down everything that comes to me. I type it, print it, read it through once, then start editing. One of the first things I do is circle words that need to be removed or replaced, such as very or huge or happy. I want to use as few words as possible to say what I mean and I have an entire shelf of reference books to help me with that.
One thing I've learned from those books, besides an abundance of synonyms, is that sometimes we use words when we don't know exactly what they mean. I once wrote an entire essay about a trifecta and when I was done thought I better look that up to make sure I'm using it right, and it turns out I wasn't! I used it anyway and included a preface to explain why but the point is, I could have looked quite foolish if I'd not caught that. It's like how not all the examples Alanis uses in Ironic are actually irony. It's still a catchy song but I can't take it seriously.
Likewise, when I speak to someone I want to add to their day. We all have people in our lives with whom conversation is difficult or draining. It's not necessarily their fault. I think they simply haven't become aware of the power their words hold.
I'd like to challenge you. Over the next couple of days, keep your ears open for the word normal. And pay attention to the words you use often or that others use with you. I'd love to know what you hear and think about it!