Sunday, May 22, 2011

Defining Normalcy: Thank You, Frayer Model

I've been trying to figure out my definition of the word "normal" all afternoon, and I'm having a really hard time with it. I'm saying to myself, "Come on, stupid, you have advanced degrees in English ... it's not that difficult" ... except it is.

Of course, it's very easy to find a dictionary definition of normal (average; conforming to the standard; not abnormal). It's all about the context.

For which I blame WTIT's Bud.

When I did this week's Sunday Stealing meme, I made a couple of references to looking for a nice, normal guy ... to which Bud asked me in the comments to define "normal".

And I couldn't, which has of course been driving me nuts all day.

Then that self-flagellation in the form of berating myself for not being able to define what isn't exactly a fifty-cent word despite my impressive college transcripts drove me to the point where I decided to use a concept that I learned in one of those university courses ... the Frayer Model.

If you're not familiar with the Frayer Model, it's basically a concept map based around one word that allows you to gain a complete understanding of it through four quadrants--a definition in your own words, facts/characteristics, examples, and non-examples.

Here's a picture, for you visual types:

And here is my understanding of "normal" as used in the context of "a nice, normal guy" with the assistance of Frayer Model terminology.

Normal (adjective)


Moderate in basic temperament, slow to fly off the handle, what you see is what you get

* Someone who is what he appears to be
* Someone who is happy (or at least comfortable) with who and what he is
* Someone who is willing to straddle the "pushing the envelope" line without totally crossing it.
* Someone who finds humor in everyday life as well as more intentionally crazy adventures
* Someone who is smart enough to have intelligent conversations on a variety of subjects ranging from why black labs eat poop to politics to why the sky is blue (and what shape various clouds take ;-))
* Someone that works hard (and not necessarily at his place of employment--you can work hard in the yard, for example, or on a piece of art of writing, or at entertaining people, or ... just not doing anything half-assed, because anything you take the time to do should be done well)

* Anyone who abuses people emotionally or physically (and especially someone incapable of realizing that he abuses people emotionally or physically)
* Anyone who pretends to be something he's not
* Anyone whose idea of adventure is either totally crazy (say, skydiving in Iran) or totally boring (wearing argyle socks)
* Anyone incapable of understanding that humor is present everywhere ... and being unwilling to relax long enough to see it.
* Anyone who is dishonest about things that it's sleazy to be dishonest about (I think I've mentioned this before, but I know this guy who runs a food cart, "buys" the food for it with food stamps, doesn't report the earnings since it's all cash ... I find that just deplorable)

Kind of more complicated than I meant it to be, but I think that the Frayer Model approach actually allowed me to articulate what a "normal guy" means to me :-)