January 10 is Peculiar People Day, an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate peculiar people. Oxford Languages defines peculiar as, “strange, odd; or unusual.” Pretty straightforward. But when talking about this day’s peculiar people, other issues tend to mix themselves in.
For example, saying it’s those who refuse to conform to the world’s idea of normal assumes a conscious resistance.
Some put it even more baldly: Peculiar People Day is to celebrate the leaders of the strange and unusual, who refuse to succumb to the world’s idea of what is normal and sane. This view, by adding the role of leadership, requires influence.
Even taking out resistance and influence, honoring individuals who are eccentric, non-conformist or unique in some manner is still subjective. Indeed, we’re all deviants by someone’s standards, in some places, at some times.
Finding/knowing who to celebrate is a public vs. private dilemma: in order to be labeled quirky (or whatever) one’s behaviors, beliefs, or attributes need to be perceived. If a peculiar tree falls peculiarly in a forest and no one sees it doing so peculiarly, was it still peculiar?
The etymology of ‘peculiar’ is, in itself, fairly peculiar. Originally, it referred to a herd of cattle privately owned, from the Sanskrit word ‘pasu-‘ for cattle. Not until the 16th century did ‘peculiar’ develop its modern connotations of something distinguished or special, generally in reference to those especially well-endowed in wealth or social standing. By the 17th century, ‘peculiar’ had come to refer to something strange, curious, or unusual.
Of all individuals, the hated, the shunned, and the peculiar are arguably most themselves. They wear no masks whatsoever in order to be accepted and liked; they do seem most guarded, but only by their own hands: as compared to the populace, they are naked.” –Criss Jami, Healology
I couldn’t find any solid info on the origins of Peculiar People Day; the earliest record (that I could find) showed up on a list of January Days published in the The San Francisco Examiner on January 1, 2002. But Peculiar People Day has too many options for fun and awareness to disappear anytime soon.
Peculiarity manifests in many dimensions:
- Physical characteristics
- Speech or phrasing choices
- Reading Habits
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a fascinating fantasy read! But that’s not the only book with peculiar people:
- “I thought to myself Mr. Rochester is peculiar — he seems to forget that he pays me £30 per annum for receiving his orders.”
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- “I love my love with a b because she is peculiar.”
- Don’t you realize that in my world my parents are peculiar because they’d never been divorced? Basically because it would have been too much trouble. But you live in a world where not only are your parents not divorced, they appear to love each other.”
- Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle
Still need a reason to celebrate? Some believe people who are termed ‘peculiar’, ‘different’, ‘strange’, or ‘abnormal’ set the world in motion.
Bottom Line: Celebrate and recognize yourself as well as others on Peculiar People Day.