What is usual?

Usual, from the Latin usualis, is an adjective referring to something that is common or that is used frequently. For example: “When you arrive in Paris, the most common thing is to visit the Eiffel Tower”, “It is common in this country for women to wear a veil to cover their faces”, “Leaving the football stadium and going to eat pizza is very common”.

The usual, therefore, is given by a certain frequency in actions or behaviors. Its meaning can only be understood in a given society, for what is common in one community may be very strange in another.

The fact that two men who barely know each other greet each other with a kiss on the cheek is common in many Latin American countries. However, this same act is rare in other latitudes, where kissing is reserved for very close relationships and, perhaps, does not occur on every date, but after long periods of separation. In Uruguay, it is very common to walk down the street with a thermos while enjoying a mate. It is a custom that neither surprises nor attracts attention. On the other hand, a man who makes mate on an American street may be curiosity or even arouse suspicion in security, given the appearance of the weed. The famous actor Viggo Mortensen, born in New York City in 1958, is recognized by millions of people for his portrayal of the character Aragorn in the adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” by acclaimed director Peter Jackson. However, Mortensen spent part of his childhood in Venezuela and Argentina, and he has a special affection for those countries. On one of his international trips, he was arrested at an airport for carrying packages of weed, as his appearance was mistaken for that of marijuana, which is more common in the United States. Customs have a weight that can only be appreciated by taking a certain distance, comparing two or more countries, their cities… While living in the place where you were born, you cannot clearly assess the intensity of certain cultural differences, which some expressions have an equivalent in another language or in another region, that attitudes considered normal in their territory may be crimes in another. Words can also be understood as usual or unusual. If someone comments that “Juan usually says a lot of nonsense”, it is a colloquial expression that does not generate any kind of strangeness. Different is the case of those who express: “Juan usually says a lot of nonsense” . Some of these terms, such as “heritage” or “nonsense”, are uncommon in everyday speech.

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Languages ​​undergo an inevitable evolution, which entails a large number of changes, including the frequency and context in which certain words are used; In many cases, the passage of time definitively removes a word from everyday vocabulary, remaining only in literature today considered classic or ancient, as if it were a black and white photo kept in a small memory box. However, a word that is no longer common in everyday speech may return after a few years, since the twists and turns of this complex and wonderful evolution are unpredictable; sometimes, a term that spent decades confined to the Royal Spanish Academy, is renewed through new nuances and enjoys a new era of splendor. “The usual suspects” (translated as “Los sospechosos de siempre”, “Sospechosos comunes” or “Sospechosos habituales”), finally, is the title of a film released in 1995 starring Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro and Stephen Baldwin.

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