January 30, 2017

Normalize, part 2.

Part 1, earlier this morning: "Trump steals their word: Normalize."

Now, I want to look at the history of the word "normalize." It makes me think of the sort of words that Strunk and White disapproved of:
-ize. Do not coin verbs by adding this tempting expression. [...] Never tack -ize onto a noun to create a verb. Usually you will discover that a useful verb already exists. Why say “moisturize” when there is the simple, unpretentious word moisten
They even single some -ize words out:
Finalize. A pompous, ambiguous verb....

Personalize. A pretentious word, often carrying bad advice. Do not personalize your prose; simply make it good and keep it clean.
Makes me feel like singing the Bob Dylan song:
I ain’t lookin’ to block you up
Shock or knock or lock you up
Analyze you, categorize you
Finalize you or advertise you
All I really want to do is, baby, normalize you. 

The OED traces normalize back to 1864,* to a New York Times article about the abuse of government power: "These attempts to normalize despotism display the impotency as well as the malignity of the Executive." Here's the article, "Prussian Politics."
Measures to confirm and legalize the most arbitrary acts of the recess have been prepared and introduced into both Houses. A new anti-press bill, which embodies some of the most oppressive and odious provisions of the ordinances, has been carried through the Herrenhaus; while a projet de loi, which will entitle the Minister to raise revenue and make disbursements as often as the Deputies decline to sanction his budget, is before the Second Chamber, and will form the first subject for debate after the holidays. These attempts to normalize despotism display the impotency as well as the malignity of the Executive, for, of course, neither one measure nor the other will ever become law.
Normalize there meant to pass laws that would support what the government was doing. It's a synonym of "legalize," which also appears in that paragraph. The word "legalize" is no neologism. It goes back to the 1600s.

And, by the way, "finalize" was a new-ish word when Strunk and White bitched about it. (The OED says 1919.) "Personalize" goes back to the 1700s, if the idea is to represent something as a person — e.g., "The Poets are fond of personalizing both physical and moral Qualities" — but the annoying meaning begins in advertising with this bit of crap from 1910:
The Calvert label in a garment..identifies the best there is in Clothing Woolens; the highest grade of modeling and making. They've got the snap and the style that personalizes them; they've got the intrinsic worth that substantializes them.
As for "substantialize" — which looks quite idiotic to my modern eyes — it goes back to the 1700s. ("A sedate yet fervent sense of gratitude towards God... substantialized in the practice of every Christian virtue.")

The OED has an entry on the "-ize" suffix. The earliest word seems to be "baptize." There's a set of words that came to English from the Greek, and perhaps words with this pedigree are more... normal:
characterize, crystallize, harmonize, idolize, monopolize, organize,  stigmatize, symbolize, systematize, tantalize, agonize, apologize, philosophize, sympathize, theorize....
Can't object to those great words! They're not pompous or pretentious. They're solid English words, words that make you glad English is your native tongue.

The OED make a separate category out of words that came to English from Latin:
actualize, authorize, brutalize, civilize, colonize, familiarize, fertilize, formalize, fossilize, humanize, immortalize, legalize, memorize, nationalize, naturalize, neutralize, patronize, pulverize, realize, satirize, scrutinize, solemnize, sterilize, terrorize, vocalize....
They start to look weird when you see them all together, but these are also great words.

But is there some rule against creativity here, something wrong with ize-izing beyond the Greek and Latin? What bugged Strunk/White so much? The OED lists words "from later sources":
bastardize, jeopardize, villanize, womanize....
And words based on ethnicities — Americanize, Anglicize — and names — Bowdlerize, galvanize, mesmerize — and substances — carbonize, oxidize — and some odd "recent uses" like "The troop of nakedized children rushed downstairs" (from 1885).

Now, I have to go get dressed. I've got places to go, appointments to keep.

Please keep up the conversation. Verbalize. Conversationalize. Scrutinize Donald Trump and help determinize whether he ought to be normalized or Hitlerized... if you can believe your own eyes.
______________________________

* There's one earlier medical use of the term from 1847, but I'm going to ignore that. If I was going to take a tangent here, it would be about the use of normalize in a couple of famous fairly recent novels:
Erica Jong "Fear of Flying" (1974): "You always insist on normalizing your life."

Bret Easton Ellis, "American Psycho" (1991): "One should use an alcohol-free antibacterial toner with a water-moistened cotton ball to normalize the skin."

68 comments:

cubanbob said...

I would be ecstatic if Trumpy was to revive the Harding-Coolidge normalcy.

David Wharton said...

Dear Strunk and White: "moisturize" doesn't mean the same thing as "moisten". It's a good word.

Mark Jones said...

Heh. I'm sure Trump's coopting of the term "normalize" is intentional, and I'm also sure it will have the desired effect of driving his enemies even farther out of their minds. How dare he hijack their word to use against them! (Just another way in which he doesn't follow the long-term Republican party playbook for dealing with a hostile media.)

Guildofcannonballs said...

Ize equals eyes on my level. Eyes are important to humans. Were it not for stupidity there would be bereftness of communication.

You don't even see, do ya?

Guildofcannonballs said...

Normal eyes are Asian to the minority.

I am diversity.

Seeing Red said...

Insty has a post from Scott Adams.

It's funny.

If Trump isn't Hitler, then they're confirmed morons for the rest of their lives.

It brings to mind something Stephen Green posted years ago. He got advice when he was 13. Something along the lines of,"Don't go thru life being stupid, son."

M Jordan said...

Lingo-nazis annoy me including Strunk and White, who I used as teaching material in the past. Many people feel they must commandeer the developing English language, attempting to game its corruption. These misguided souls don't understand that English is the great language organism the world has ever created. It's in constant flux, moving forward relentlessly, gloriously evolving and developing.

"Finalize" is an excellent word. Anyone who opposes it is a grammar nazi.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I quite often have to normalize* vectors, which works fine as long as they are not zero length.

*Normalizing vectors should not be confused with finding normal vectors. Normalizing a vector does not make it a normal vector.

n.n said...

Normalize is also a standard term of art in mathematics (and other technical disciplines) that describes a process of adjustment with respect to a standard reference (e.g. unity, average). In a social context, it refers to acknowledgment and promotion of a behavior, typically because it has a redeeming value to society or humanity.

traditionalguy said...

Norman was a favorite on Cheers. Which brings to mind North Man, who was a Viking from Geiranger Fiord in beautiful Norway that did the first Normandy Invasion. These semantics must be Trump's way of promoting white privilege, especially over those dirty Saxons.

Serving a Norman Conqueror is the old Normal.

TreeJoe said...

I'd like to see you do an article on the news calling Trump's EO a "ban" considering it only lasts 120 days (I believe). Is a "ban" temporary? Or would that necessitate calling it a "temporary ban"? Isn't such a short period of time - relative to immigration timelines - and with numerous exceptions more of a "temporary hold"?

The language here is fascinating.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

M Jordan said...

These misguided souls don't understand that English is the great language organism the world has ever created.

Yes, when the English came across a word that was useful they took it for their own. Sort of like what they did with land. And people.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

TreeJoe said...

Is a "ban" temporary? Or would that necessitate calling it a "temporary ban"? Isn't such a short period of time - relative to immigration timelines - and with numerous exceptions more of a "temporary hold"?

Moratorium is the term I would use.

Kevin said...

By coopting the term, Trump is just patronizing his enemies.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

One should use an alcohol-free antibacterial toner with a water-moistened cotton ball to normalize the skin.

Instead of normalize he should have used moisturize

Michael K said...

" Isn't such a short period of time - relative to immigration timelines - and with numerous exceptions more of a "temporary hold"? "

How about "Pause?"

A pause in immigration.

Sort of like the one in global warming.

PB said...

This brings up one of the words I really dislike, "incentivize". It should always "incent".

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Strunk and White's "particular" examples are weird. Yes, "finalize" can be pretty well replaced with "make final," but that's not a verb; it's two words. And there is no equivalent to "personalize" that isn't a whole danged phrase. And I agree with David Wharton that "moisturize" doesn't mean the same thing as "moisten." The latter means "make damp," and the former means "infuse moisture into." If you were told to "moisten your skin," what would you do? Wet it? If you were told to "moisturize your skin," you'd probably rub lotion on it. Different substances, different words, different meanings.

Mind you, I'm a grammar Nazi myself, on some subjects. But Strunk & White are artificially limiting the range of the English language, which is nearly always a bad thing.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

PB,

Agree with you on "incentivize," though. There's a reason Blogger flags it :-)

tcrosse said...

We caould talk about a Hiatus in Immigration, although it sounds like part of the urinary tract.

Rob said...

Think how much better Strunk and White would have looked if they'd followed the Eleventh Commandment: Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize!

Big Mike said...

Warren Harding won overwhelmingly in 1920 by running on a "return to normalcy."

Hagar said...

"Objet de loi" gets nothing but French entries when googled.

Some words sets my teeth on edge, and "legalize" is one of them. Perhaps for the connotation of an act by a body not entitled to pass legislation.

madAsHell said...

Normalcy and the election of Warren G. Harding.

madAsHell said...

Darn!! Big Mike trumped me!

I felt certain that no one would recall such trivia.

James Kahn said...

I've never understood why language purists are so down on "Hopefully," as in "Hopefully Trump will make more liberal heads explode this week."

Yes, it can be replaced by "I hope that...." But how does that differ from "fortunately," "luckily," "unfortunately" and so on, which no one seems to complain about?

And why are verbs with "-ize" any worse than verbs with "-ate" or "-ify"?

Kevin said...

Or perhaps Trump is simply trying to trivialize his opponent's chosen word?

AllenS said...

Trump is just normalating.

Fernandinande said...

Ignorance is Bliss said...
Normalizing vectors should not be confused with finding normal vectors. Normalizing a vector does not make it a normal vector.


Going off on a tangent like that is the passive-aggressive, cross product of a disruptive mind.

Mr Wibble said...

If you were told to "moisten your skin," what would you do? Wet it? If you were told to "moisturize your skin," you'd probably rub lotion on it.

It moisturizes its skin, or else it's skin will be moistened.

tcrosse said...

Trump wishes to Preposterize his Opposition.

Earnest Prole said...

Normalize means "to make conform to or reduce to a norm or standard." It does not mean what the Trump opposition seems to think it means, something along the lines of "to accept as normal that which is not." One would think the opposition would be eager to make Trump conform to a norm.

tcrosse said...

Don't immanentize the eschaton, dude.

Roughcoat said...

I for one like "ize" words and aim to keep using them.

P.S. "Moisturize" and "moisten" have different meanings, dummy.

harryo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

Next thing you know they'll tell us we shouldn't use -ful words. Hopefully that won't happen.

mccullough said...

Hypnotize

Known Unknown said...

I wonder if any of these language critics have ever Simonized their car.

Wilbur said...

Midasize.

Shepardize those citations.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I have recently changed my mind about the 'correctness' of business English and business usage of standard English words.
Before business, we had literary English and vernacular. Business required a new vocabulary. the business English word "signage" seems to date from the late 1960s, when legally required notices began to proliferate in businesses and workplaces.
This is similar to the "business suit," which evolved to fit (hah!) the needs of business: clothing that was uniform, and was not for physical work. The business suit is supposedly descended from 18th & 19th century gentleman's sporting clothing and military uniforms.

Chuck said...

What a wonderful, quintessentially Althouse post.

And of course Donald Trump wasn't thinking much about any of this when he employed "normalize." He's not on the same wavelength as Althouse, right? Am I right? You know I'm right. Trump uses less complicated words. Less complicated, but great. Really great words. Great, beautiful words. I guarantee it, that you will think that they are beautiful words. You will think that they are such beautiful words, you'll say, "Please, Mr. Trump! Your words are too beautiful! We can't take any more beautiful words!" But you're going to love it. Big time.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

James Kahn,

I think the beef wrt "hopefully," formally, is that the meaning is unclear. I mean, everyone actually does know that it means "It is to be hoped that [...]," but it's not entirely certain who is doing the hoping. Or something like that. It's part of a general dislike of sentence adverbs. Me, I think sentence adverbs are the bees' knees, and every time I read a sentence beginning "More important," I cringe. More important than what?

Carter Wood said...

German abounds with a similar structure:

personalisieren
finalisieren
normalisieren

Via French, I believe.

Will Cate said...

You forgot to say "The OED, which I cannot link to..."

tcrosse said...

NATO needs to be Eisenhowerized.

FullMoon said...

Chuck said... [hush]​[hide comment]

What a wonderful, quintessentially Althouse post.

And of course Donald Trump wasn't thinking much about any of this when he employed "normalize." He's not on the same wavelength as Althouse, right? Am I right? You know I'm right. Trump uses less complicated words. Less complicated, but great. Really great words. Great, beautiful words. I guarantee it, that you will think that they are beautiful words. You will think that they are such beautiful words, you'll say, "Please, Mr. Trump! Your words are too beautiful! We can't take any more beautiful words!" But you're going to love it. Big time.


Hmmm, not bad!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Lewis Wetzel,

"Signage" does seem to me borderline unnecessary. We do have "signs." If "signage" were used to refer to the entire collection of signs on a property, it might make sense. But in fact it just refers to a few signs, or even a single one.

OT: I don't know exactly when this happened, but singular "trouser" and "pant" have been around for at least a couple decades, and continue to proliferate. I don't want to put my legs in a "pant." It has a doggy smell to it. And, Ann, have you yet run across a "short"? Men in short!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Carter Wood,

German abounds in new-created nouns of every description. The ones you mention might be French in origin, but the language excels in making up new words.

AllenS said...

Less Chuckage would be nice.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This post begs for some new words - I offer:

"The trumpitization of America continues into its second week. First, he trumpitized the inauguration. Now he is trumpitizing immigration from Mexico and seven Muslim countries. Will he trumpitize health care next?"

Fernandinande said...

Words that end in -ize are containerized here:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/words-that-end-in-ize

SayAahh said...

I still hear my flight instructor from 45 years ago telling me to 'normalize' the aviation panel before stepping out of the plane.
Now I find myself normalizing the oven settings after my wife.

tcrosse said...

"Signage" does seem to me borderline unnecessary

Not to mention Fenestration, which only becomes useful as Defenestration.

Ann Althouse said...

"And I agree with David Wharton that "moisturize" doesn't mean the same thing as "moisten." The latter means "make damp," and the former means "infuse moisture into." If you were told to "moisten your skin," what would you do? Wet it? If you were told to "moisturize your skin," you'd probably rub lotion on it. Different substances, different words, different meanings."

I'm thinking neither Strunk nor White ever moisturized their skin.

They were very crusty.

The idea that there was a distinction here to be made utterly escapalized them.

Ann Althouse said...

"Darn!! Big Mike trumped me!"

Yeah, but cubanbob trumped Big Mike.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Chuck wrote:
He's not on the same wavelength as Althouse, right? Am I right? You know I'm right. Trump uses less complicated words. Less complicated, but great. Really great words. Great, beautiful words. I guarantee it, that you will think that they are beautiful words. You will think that they are such beautiful words, you'll say, "Please, Mr. Trump! Your words are too beautiful! We can't take any more beautiful words!" But you're going to love it. Big time.
Those words won him the presidency. Can't say that for the words of Romney, McCain, Jeb, Joohn kasish, Cruz, Hillary, Sanders, etc.

Ann Althouse said...

The -ize word I've been criticized for using is "incentivize."

I've taken some trouble to avoid using it.

Not anymore.

I am cured of the fear of -ize.

I will fearlessly go ize-skating from now on.

Chuck said...

Ann,

You forgot the cross-Atlantic cage match of 1940; "normalise" versus "normalize."

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/107902/normalise-or-normalize-british-english

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
Lewis Wetzel,

"Signage" does seem to me borderline unnecessary. We do have "signs." If "signage" were used to refer to the entire collection of signs on a property, it might make sense. But in fact it just refers to a few signs, or even a single one.

True enough, but when I've heard the word used in a business context, "signage" means to post a sign for business purposes. Putting up a "wet paint" sign would be a courtesy. Putting up "wet paint" signage would be done to avert a lawsuit. So for the signage you would need a lawyer or compliance officer to inspect the sign to make sure the letters were big enough and the "signage" was posted in the right location, the right distance from the painted surface, etc.
But I am in the Western US. Maybe the business usage of "signage" is a regional thing.

Meade said...

You're just too good to be true. Can't take myize off of you. Myize adore you.

EDH said...

What does it mean to curve grades? by Professor S.A. Miller

Students generally assume that curving means an upward adjustment of low test scores, but the basis of the practice derives from assumptions about statistical distributions of scores (bell curve). If you assume that scores should fit a normal curve, then it makes sense to "normalize" them so they fit under a normal curve. Normalization also requires that overly high scores be adjusted downward for conformity. Either way, data are distorted and some information is lost. Look at some data, then consider all the implications of "grading on a curve".

Wiki

In statistics and applications of statistics, normalization can have a range of meanings. In the simplest cases, normalization of ratings means adjusting values measured on different scales to a notionally common scale, often prior to averaging. In more complicated cases, normalization may refer to more sophisticated adjustments where the intention is to bring the entire probability distributions of adjusted values into alignment. In the case of normalization of scores in educational assessment, there may be an intention to align distributions to a normal distribution. A different approach to normalization of probability distributions is quantile normalization, where the quantiles of the different measures are brought into alignment.

In another usage in statistics, normalization refers to the creation of shifted and scaled versions of statistics, where the intention is that these normalized values allow the comparison of corresponding normalized values for different datasets in a way that eliminates the effects of certain gross influences, as in an anomaly time series. Some types of normalization involve only a rescaling, to arrive at values relative to some size variable. In terms of levels of measurement, such ratios only make sense for ratio measurements (where ratios of measurements are meaningful), not interval measurements (where only distances are meaningful, but not ratios).

Roughcoat said...

The ize have it.

Ambrose said...

"These attempts to normalize despotism display the impotency as well as the malignity of the Executive.'

Are you sure the NYT quote is from 1864? I thought I read this just this morning in a Trump editorial.

Roughcoat said...

Beware the ize of March, Caesar.

No?

zyz65 said...

I have never understood why Americans idolise (sic) so much Strunk And Whosit. Especially in the age of the internet there is no shortage of half-baked opinion. Charlotte's Web wasn't that great, either. And it's only the OED which clings to -ise, the rest of the British use the Frechified -ise. Thank you for reading, have a nize day.

Deanna said...

Most of you all should be about the right age to remember that great Eagle's song that goes along something like this:
"You can't hide your lionize
And your smile is a thin discize
I thought by now you'd realize
There ain't no way to hide your lionize
There ain't no way to hide your lionize
Honey, you can't hide your lionize"

urbane legend said...

Makes that quite a different song, Deanna. :-)

urbane legend said...

PB said...
This brings up one of the words I really dislike, "incentivize". It should always "incent".


None of us is incent.