Ask people what their favorite season is, and a lot will say fall (or is it autumn?).
I’d have to agree. I’ve always considered autumn (or is it fall?) to be my favorite season. I enjoy the crisp, cool, clean air, and the unique beauty that landscapes take on.
To me, fall (or is it autumn?) is the “nicest” time of year, when the temperatures aren’t extreme and air masses, for the most part, lack excessive humidity. Basically, autumn (or is it fall?) is kind of like what Goldilocks felt about the third bowl of porridge in “The Story of The Three Bears”: it’s just right.
Or it can be, anyway. Sure, record lows and highs for fall (or is it autumn?) are pretty darn low and high, but the odds are usually good that readings will be far south of triple digits and north of single digits.
But what’s up with a season having two names? I don’t know if I’d call it confusing, because the English language – in all its strangeness – has plenty of examples where more than one word exists to describe one thing. But I never really know what to call it – although I guess I use “fall” more often.
That problem doesn’t exist during three of the four seasons, but for about three months out of each year, we’re faced with the strange dilemma of more or less taking sides with one of the two camps in the ongoing battle of “name that season.”
And it’s not like the “Missour-ee” versus “Missour-uh” thing. Those are just variations on the pronunciation of a single word – we’re talking two entirely different words here.
I guess there’s something to be said for not taking sides and sort of waffling back and forth between the season’s two names (like many politicians do with pronouncing the Show Me State’s name). But for some reason, that doesn’t seem right either. I can’t put a finder on why – it just doesn’t.
With origins in both French and Latin languages, forms of the word “autumn” were probably used as early as the 12th century, but became common by the 16th century. Meanwhile, the word “fall” can be traced back to old Germanic language, and the term became widely used in England in the 1500s, as kind of a shortened version of “fall of a leaf” and one or two other “falling” phrases.
While fall eventually gave way to autumn in Britain, settlers in North America latched onto fall as the preferred moniker for the season, and it continues to be the more commonly used name in America today. But that doesn’t mean autumn is out completely. To the contrary, a version of it with a capital ‘A’ has even been among the top 100 names for new girls for about 15 years now.
And what of summer, winter and spring? Are we to believe they’re not worthy of having a second name?
Believe me, I’d have little trouble coming up with other names for them. For example, winter’s other title could be derived from whatever the Latin word for “ice” is, or we could just say “freeze,” as in a shortened version of “freeze of the toes” and other frozen phrases.
But maybe it would make more sense to have one name for each season instead of adding one to the three that now have only one apiece. After all, simplifying is still “in,” and less is more, right?
In any case, the season we’re in right now is what it is, and what it is is nice, no matter what you call it. It’s a great time to get out and ride a horse, wet a line, dig in the yard, paint an outbuilding, walk a dog (like a big ol’ Corgi), or just plain walk. You can do any of those things and be confident that after two minutes you won’t be drenched in sweat or have frost on your nose hair.
Now, I realize that some people have extremely short memories with regard to weather, so I just know that in a month or two when the temperature drops below 20 and snow flurries are in the forecast, I’m going to hear someone say, “well, looks like we went straight from summer to winter again.”
But let the record show here and now that whoever says that will be incorrect. We’re enjoying an elongated fall (or is it autumn?) this year, and we’ve had weeks and weeks of pleasant daytime temperatures and those perfect nights, when sleeping comfortably doesn’t require assistance from a machine that cools or heats the room.
As William Shakespeare wrote in his play “Romeo and Juliet”: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Fall or autumn – it’s pretty sweet. Especially this time around.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.