Want something ordinary? Here it is (about the word 'ordinary')

Want something ordinary? Here it is (about the word 'ordinary')

During one of several phone conversations that made up most of my human contact yesterday, we talked about things being ordinary.

"What's the etymology of that word, Margaret?"

Ah, the echo of my dad and his way of saying he'd heard a good word that day. Just as I used to do for Dad, I asked, "Shall I look it up?"

Just as before, the answer was yes.

I was startled and delighted to run across an increasingly funny list of definitions for ordinary as a noun: a church or court official with original power or jurisdiction, not a deputy; a book containing the form or order for divine service; a set meal served daily at a fixed price (English for prix-fixe!); a tavern; a prison chaplain; an early type of bicycle with wheels of different sizes.

I guess that last one was before bicycles with wheels of equal size became ordinary as an adjective. The dictionary told me (after the phone call, when we got distracted by the nouns!) that ordinary is regular; customary, usual, normal, common, familiar, unexceptional.

Regular? That's another story, er, post. But otherwise, doesn't it look delicious?

I love beautiful things, but I'm increasingly aware that beauty can be very simple. Beauty is in the normal, common, usual things... the ordinary things.

Want some ordinary things back in your life? Then do what's customary, what's usual, as much as you can:

-- Set your alarm clock to wake you up. If you really want an ordinary, normal framework, set a second alarm to remind you to start getting ready for bed. (I use an old cell phone for the latter -- now it's an alarm clock with pictures.)

-- Use the good dishes. Use the dishes at all, not the cartons, because that's what we usually, ordinarily do.

-- Worried about going to your gym, or affording it? Take common, unexceptional, ordinary walks for your exercise.

-- Get dressed in something beyond sweatshirts and jeans. Wear what you would wear on an ordinary day. (Not that I'm practicing what I preach today, but I've tried it.)

That's about it, except for the ordinary stuff at the end of posts. Bye!

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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Filed under: Words Worth Defending


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  • Another terrific essay. Reminds me, as always, of Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. Who saw so much in ordinary things.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    You're very kind to keep mentioning what sort of company you see me in. I always enjoyed Rooney's observations, and I guess he was among my good influences. Hmm, maybe he'll show up at a meeting!

  • Yes, wouldn't we all love to have an "ordinary" dinner out--or visit an "ordinary" barber?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Indeed, jnorto. The pizza place in my neighborhood, literally the corner store, is still strange as a takeout place. I do my part when I can to keep them there, but I'd love to just stay there again for a while. Last year around this time, with my TV on the blink, I spent all of Sunday afternoon there watching the Indy 500. Long story, but much needed just then. Now The Race (as I could hear my parents call it, caps and all) isn't even 'til August.

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