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From one of the survey result (IT related), I came across the following line:

Agile Development and Service-Oriented-Architectures (SOA) represent the “new normal.”

What does "new normal" mean here? Is it an idiom?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Ah, it's an instantiation of the "X is the new Y" snowclone (also see here and here), like "pink is the new red" or "ugly is the new cute" or "Google is the new Microsoft". It means (to claim) that AD&SOA, or whatever they represent, are now so common that they're normal now, and constitute the new (normal) state of the world.

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I think this analysis doesn't work, actually. The syntax is all wrong. You can't say "Pink represents the red," nor can you say "Pink is the "new red"" (i.e., with quotation marks). Nor can you say "Agile Development and SOA is the new "normal"". In short "new normal" must have a heritage of its own. –  Merk Oct 5 '12 at 7:25
    
The other reason the analysis doesn't work is semantic. In "X is the new Y", X and Y are either non-semantically overlapping or separate members of the same category. In "ABC represents the "new normal"", this is not true: the second item is the category which the first item instantiates. –  Merk Oct 5 '12 at 7:29
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@Merk I would argue in this case that the punctuation of the original quote is flawed. "New normal" should not be placed in quotes at all, and the author simply did so [erroneously] to visually join the two words into a single term. The quote should have read: "Agile Development and Service-Oriented-Architectures (SOA) represent the new normal." Misuse of quotation marks is very common even in professional writing, especially when invoking new language. The punctuation may mess up the syntax and semantics in a strict sense, but punctuation is seldom consistent with new idioms and phrases. –  Bacon Bits Jan 4 '13 at 10:37
    
Agree with @Merk and Bacon Bits here. The idiom just isn't the same. "X is the new Y" requires that X and Y be the same part of speech. The original citation would need to be something like "Agile is the new normal" to even be considered as the same idiom. Furthermore, the phrase has been around a lot longer. See my answer below. –  dodgethesteamroller Jun 22 '13 at 7:44
    
(There are some examples here in which X and Y are not the same part of speech. –  ShreevatsaR Nov 21 '13 at 10:06

The phrase "the new normal" indicates a state of affairs, a condition of life, or a set of circumstances that (the speaker argues) were once unusual or remarkable, but now should be considered a baseline state, a conventional and unremarkable condition.

The phrase appeared in print as early as 1900 as this New York Times story demonstrates via this Google Ngram. Its most recent spike in usage seems to have started with a speech in 2010 by Mohamed A. El-Erian of the investment firm PIMCO called "Navigating the New Normal in Industrial Countries", in which "the new normal" referred to the condition of the global economy following the financial crisis of 2007–2008.

This is not as it might seem an instance of "X is the new Y"—most commonly heard in the context of fashion or other social trends, such as "Red is the new black"—which (as other commenters have noted) seems to have originated in the 1960s. More to the point, the two idioms are syntactically and semantically quite different. In "X is the new Y," X and Y are not just the same part of speech but could be comfortably substituted for one another in the same idiomatic utterance by the same speaker; in the example given of "X represents the 'new normal,'" and in the nine occurrences of the phrase in El-Arian's speech, this is not the case. Compare "Black is the new red [i.e., the fashionable color that goes with anything]" or "Thirty is the new twenty [i.e., the appropriate age to move back in with your parents]" to "Agile development represents the new normal" or El-Arian's "bumpy journey to a new normal."

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As we have repeatedly learned several times while answering questions on this site, it can be misleading to blindly look at Google Ngrams without actually looking at the results. In this case, the alleged old instances of "new normal" include instances like "Mathematics Department of the new Normal School" which are clearly irrelevant here. However, looking at Google Ngrams is a good idea; it would be good to do it properly and find the oldest unambiguous use of the phrase. –  ShreevatsaR Jun 22 '13 at 9:55
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@ShreevatsaR good point, but it doesn't change the fact that calling "the new normal" an instance of "X is the new Y" is just plain wrong. The age of the first usage is of less significance than the fact that semantically and syntactically "normal" doesn't fit the pattern for Y, as demonstrated in the comments on your accepted answer above. –  dodgethesteamroller Jun 22 '13 at 15:53

This is an instance of the template, a snowclone, of "X is the new Y", a phrase that according to Wikipedia may have started with this quote:

"I ADORE that pink ... it's the navy blue of India." --Vreeland, 1962

Here's an interesting diagram showing a researcher's attempts to map all the separate instances of "X is the new Y" in 2005

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100% wrong. See my answer below. –  dodgethesteamroller Nov 1 '13 at 0:06

New normal means that something has established as new 'standard' or usual way.

Agile Development and Service-Oriented-Architectures (SOA) represent the “new standard.”

See also Urban dictionary

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This. The phenomenon has recently become normal. It is in vogue. Modish. –  Preston Fitzgerald Apr 2 at 23:41

I believe in that context it means that AD and SOA are now ubiquitous and essential that they became the normal method of software development.
The way it's worded suggests that the word normal should be changed to AD and SOA, which is an exaggeration of how essential they are.

Yet, being a software developer myself, I think, in my opinion, the fact is a bit too exaggerated =)

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Shorter version: One way to interpret it is that the old technologies that AD/SOA will be replacing were what was once considered "normal"; now, AD/SOA will be taking their place, and thus they should now be the ones to be treated as "normal". I heartily agree with Beemer's take that such things are usually exaggerations, FWIW. –  user730 Dec 17 '10 at 5:20

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