24 October 2015
We say Autumn – you say Fall
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus
Autumn, or, as our cousins across the pond would have it, ‘The Fall’ is now well and truly upon us. Halloween – and more of that another time – is just around the corner with the winter solstice and Christmas chasing its tail.
Those of you who consider ‘fall’ to be an American barbarism might want to think again. As this online etymology dictionary points out ‘fall’ (in simple terms) comes from the Old English ‘feallan’, past tense ‘feoll’, past participle ‘feallen’ – meaning to drop from a height; fail, decay or die.
The term, like the English settlers, spread to the new World where it’s still used today. Here in Britain however, the word ‘fall’ fell out of favour to be replaced in British English by ‘autumn’.
So, despite what you may have thought, and as grammarist.com points out: ‘while widely used in the US it’s neither exclusively American nor American in origin.’
So there you have it. Like the leaves, another possible preconception bites the dust.
Possibly even older than the term ‘fall’ is ‘autumn’. Seemingly first used by Chaucer c 1374 the word ‘autumn’ is apparently derived from the Latin autumnus/auctumnus. Though others would say its etymology is unclear.
Whatever your feelings about all of that, I rather like this blog post’s suggestion that ‘fall’ makes a neat foil to its opposite number ‘spring’ and gives us the helpful prompt: ‘Spring ahead, fall back’.
Which, with the clocks about to be altered again, is a timely (see what I did there?) reminder.
NB: Photos by kind permission of Maureen Illes