On the Origin of Fall (Autumn)

pumpkins

As I ranted yesterday about the beauty of the post-summer season, I realized that I had to make a choice. Would I refer to it as Autumn or Fall?

I settled on Autumn for a few reasons:

  • It sounds classier.
  • Though it isn’t the preferred nomenclature for most of North America, most people still know what I mean.
  • I just like it better. Okay?

But why did I have to decide at all? How did the season come to be called Fall in North America and Autumn in every other English-speaking place?

As I dug into this question, I was really hoping to see that Fall had some mysterious origins linking it to cool connotations of death or changing colors or cooler weather. Anything other than the obvious connotation of something falling.

But I didn’t find that. The origin of Fall is of something falling. It goes back to the 1660’s and is a shortened form for “fall of the leaves” or “fall of the season”.

Whereas the beautiful word “Autumn” has Etruscan roots and is older than the Roman empire, “Fall” is ugly, quite literal, and could as easily be referring to the season as a drunk who has tippled to excess.

Ah well, not all of my wishes can come true. But I’ll do what I can to raise my children to be Autumn snobs like me. That’s okay, right?

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2 responses to “On the Origin of Fall (Autumn)

  1. Autumn has been my favorite season for all of my life, for the foods, leafpile-diving, and especially the snowless chill. The changing colors never last long enough, but are wonderful while here. And the mulled ciders! Start me not on the ciders!

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