Fall into autumn

Oct 1, 2012 | Language

So, it’s the first day of October and, for many, the first day of autumn. The flip flops have been put away and the boots brought out. Huge house spiders seem to be heaving themselves out of plugholes on a daily basis and are, presumably, eating all the last remaining mosquitoes. The heating is going on in homes across the land (we have a strict ‘not before October’ rule in our house anyway) and people are starting to utter the ‘C’ word (*shudder* – 85 days, apparently).

The American for autumn is, of course, Fall and, whilst we also in my house have a strict no Americanization rule, this is one I like. It conjures up the beautiful reds, golds and browns of dying leaves and the little white clapperboard houses of New England. It also helps when trying to remember which way to turn the little hand, with the extremely useful phrase Spring forward, fall back. And I like the way it means exactly what it says on the tin and is almost patronisingly descriptive.

The word fall actually did make its way across the pond from England in the 17th century, when the English emigration was at its peak, and became the common term in America while gradually losing popularity here. It is thought to have come from the shortening of middle English phrases such as fall of the leaf.

The word autumn comes from the Old French autompne (automne in modern French) and has been recorded as being used as far back as the 12th century. However, a more common word at that time for the season was harvest (as is still common in other Germanic languages, for example Herbst in German and herfst in Dutch). But as people moved away from the country and into towns, it became less relevant to the general populace and was eventually used only to determine the actual activity of reaping and autumn took its place.

So now you know and welcome to autumn! You have my permission to turn on your heating.

image: © Michael Germann | Dreamstime.com