100 Years Later We Are “Returning to Normalcy” Again


Kristin Kennedy, Writer

If you have seen the news at all in the last few months, there is no doubt that you have come across the phrase, “return to normalcy.” Returning to normalcy is what we have been trying to do for quite some time. However, you may not realize that “normalcy” has a pretty interesting origin and it was popularized exactly 100 years ago.

Former President Warren G. Harding used the word “normalcy” in his presidential campaign in 1920. While many people believe he came up with the word, the word actually already existed as a function in mathematics and it was added to the dictionary in 1855, ten years before Harding was born. However, Harding certainly can be attributed with popularizing the word as part of his campaign slogan. Many people thought he was meaning to say “normality” and simply did not know the difference. It became a source of criticism for many of his opposers.

I have noticed that word caused considerable news editors to change it to “normality”. I have looked for “normality” in my dictionary and I do not find it there. “Normalcy”, however, I did find, and it is a good word.

— Warren G. Harding

What is really interesting is that 100 years ago the United States was working to “return to normalcy,” just as we are now. Harding promised to restore the American mentality from before World War I and two decades of Progressive Reform, and he won the election with 60.3% of the popular vote. This idea of a “return to normalcy” since the Covid-19 pandemic was a big part of the 2020 election.

Even though Harding was at first criticized for his use of the word, it is now an everyday word that is incredibly relevant especially this year. It can serve as a reminder that history repeats itself, but also a reminder to appreciate Harding for giving us this word.