On this first day of fall, or autumn if you are in the UK, let’s take a moment to consider why there are two words for the season that starts with the autumnal equinox and ends with the winter solstice. Before you think too hard, read this wonderful article summing up some of the reasons why this season, unlike the other three, has two names. After all, a rose by any other name should still smell as sweet, and the sap from any maple tree should taste just as good on pancakes. But I digress.
Finish reading? Good.
First of all, I already knew the reason why Americans say “fall” while Brits say “autumn” had something to do with when the British started colonizing North America. But those older terms for spring and fall — Lent/Lenten and Harvest— how fabulous are they. Especially Harvest. So appropriately literal. Naturally, anything appropriately literal makes me think of German, and the German word for fall, Herbst, sounds a lot like Harvest.
The article makes reference to romance language names for spring, like printemps in French. If you take that term literally, I get this idea of a sense of newness. The Modern Greek word for spring, άνοιξη, means opening. Perhaps, the most apropos season name is the Greek word for summer, καλοκαίρι, which literally means “good weather”. Anyone who has spent time in Greece in the summer would likely agree with that. It never rains and there is not a hint of the miserable humidity that plagues the East Coast of the US in the summer.
Of course, in New England, there is no better season than fall. Regardless which word you use for the season.
(Photo of New Hampshire in Autumn via Someone35)