People use the word "historic" to describe everything from a football game to the invention of a new model of vacuum cleaner. Sometimes you think we have lost the sensitivity to perceive events in their true significance - so much is "epoch-making", "ground-breaking" and "unprecedented".
But yesterday what we witnessed in the arrival of Her Majesty in Dublin was all of those things.
Those aren't just words. The power of historical fact and symbolic impact came together and were felt in the sinews, the nerves and the heart.
In the teeth of hurt on all sides and some resentment, some opposition and much disbelief, two nations met on equal terms in a full exchange of regard, respect, heritage and potential.
There was nothing left out. If a few weeks ago her grandson Prince William had married in his Irish Guards uniform with shamrock epaulettes, the Queen could turn up resplendent in a green outfit by her favourite dressmaker, Angela Kelly, from a Liverpool Irish background.
And what more could a British monarch do than bow her head in honour of those who had felt compelled to give their lives in rejection of what her throne represented? What more could an Irish President and government do than welcome fulsomely onto their soil the head of state of a nation which their fellow countrymen and women historically and in current times had helped build and transform?
There is a common feature of "commemoration" in Ireland, north and south. Victimhood. The massacres of 1641, the penal laws, the fall of Parnell, the Home Rule betrayal, the Somme, Easter 1916. And behind it all the spectres of famine and emigration. Both republicanism and unionism often wallow in betrayals, real or imagined. And they have their own wars in which Britain historically has played either a direct or indirect role.
But none of this is unique. Germany bludgeoned and occupied France only 70 years ago. Russia and Poland. India and Pakistan. All those countries have maintained "relations", kept doors open even after wars so bloody they dwarf in scale the conflicts on our fringe of western Europe.
If individuals can be seen to represent their people, in the way we all assume they do by the status and respect we accord them, then yesterday a deal was done which was more meaningful than any political negotiation. Political structures can break down. Even peace processes can falter or, at worst, disintegrate. But the Queen's visit and her reception yesterday gave to relations between these two islands a normality and mutuality that has never existed before.
The reference point for the visit is not 1911, the last time a British monarch visited Dublin. In fact, these two islands and their jurisdictions have never met each other on anything like the terms that were established yesterday.
Obviously the focus in the run up to the Queen's arrival has been given over to those who don't feel that it is time to move on. Indeed, it remains to be seen how much of the visit is coloured by the security precautions that were made necessary by what we have all been told is a mere handful of malcontents. The streets were emptied. There were no cheering crowds. There were ranks of armed police in riot gear. That's the power of anybody with access to a gun. Cead mile failte - how are you?
The narrative was very much dictated by a minority. But there are also a large number of people for whom the visit, while welcome, is still contentious. Those people may feel some sense of historical betrayal, or the concept of "unfinished business" while "partition" remains, or that the claims of "dead generations" will outweigh the claims of children yet unborn.
Also among those disquieted will be people bereaved during the Troubles, and they have every right to feel whatever their grief demands.
Among those is the Queen.
We should not allow her status or her symbolic position to obscure the simple fact that her beloved cousin Lord Mountbatten was blown to pieces by the IRA on August 27, 1979.
The reason why Mountbatten was targeted was precisely because of his proximity to the throne and because of his closeness to, for instance, Prince Charles, to whom he was a mentor.
So it would be disingenuous now to pretend that somehow the impact of that murder was not registered as emotionally by the Queen - perhaps even more so than the death of Diana.
The Queen - as these things go in Northern Ireland - is a victim of the Troubles. Just as the relatives of the other three people who died after the bomb went off on the Shadow V, and of the 18 soldiers killed at Warrenpoint, and of Michael Hudson, the 28-year-old civilian shot at Carlingford, all that same day, are victims too.
Because they wore a "uniform" - even a fishing cap and jacket - does not stop them being family.
There may be people on the other side of the cordons in Dublin who would wish harm upon the Queen herself. Certainly the security measures took that as read.
Do people think the Queen doesn't somehow know she is a target? That she doesn't get scared? And yet she stepped out of the plane in plain sight and began her four-day visit with that peculiar and stubborn courage that she has shown throughout her career, even in less vexatious circumstances, but which seemed yesterday to be especially appropriate to her diminutive, graceful, friendly 85-year-old frame.
There are many people in Northern Ireland who would never set foot in the Republic because of bereavement; there are many in England who harbour nothing but resentment against everything Irish because there are people who will never come home, just as there are people in Ireland who find it hard to look their neighbours in the eye.
But it is a measure of the Queen's diligence in her duty that she made that journey up to the doors of Aras an Uachtarain to be welcomed by the President of Ireland. This isn't about gardens of remembrance for this independence struggle or that war. It is not about Croke Park and this massacre or that atrocity, though all those things are of importance.
It's about one elderly woman putting herself in harm's way to make something happen that only she could, making the journeys to and from Ireland and Britain a bit more routine, a bit more ordinary, a bit less loaded.
People asked why did it take so long, but that's the wrong question. The question is: why did it happen now?
And the answer is - and people need to understand this - Elizabeth II believed what she was told. Just like Ronan Kerr, she believed that the risk was worth it.
Let's hope she's right.