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The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

The student news site of Linfield University

The Linfield Review

Falling into Autumn: the long-standing debate of the terms fall and autumn

Annemarie Mullet

Pop versus Soda, roundabout versus traffic circle, dustbin versus garbage can, film versus movie, holiday versus vacation, lift versus elevator. The debate on what term is the ‘best’ to use plagues English speakers everytime one of the telltale words is used. But, the term that causes this biggest debate is perhaps autumn versus fall.

For British English speakers, many of these words are brushed off as American slang, just a term some ninny came up with because they chose to break away from British English. But for Americans, many of the words have been adopted depending on which region of the Country they live in and who they were surrounded by growing up.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word autumn as “the season between summer and winter comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of September, October, and November or as reckoned astronomically extending from the September equinox to the December solstice.”

There are many definitions of the word fall in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, but in regards to the season, it is defined only as “the season where leaves fall from trees” and is linked to the definition of autumn.

Pulling from those definitions, it seems that autumn covers the whole of the season, while fall covers the specific part where the leaves have withered off their branches and made the inevitable descent to the ground.

Prior to the English adoption of the latin-based term autumn in the 14th century, the term used to describe the season was harvest, in relation to the harvest of crops that occurs normally during said season.

Though autumn, adopted from the Latin, autumnus, was adopted for the season in the early 1300s, the “fall of the leaves” was adopted in the 1600s, shortened to fall. So, both of the words originated in Britain, but as the American and British divided post separation, so did the words fall and autumn, each laying claim to one.

Therefore, fall is not just American slang, and is a legitimate phrase that defines the season. Take that, snooty English speakers!

Jokes aside, no matter which word you prefer, let’s all agree to allow each other the courtesy of using whichever term they’d like. Everyone speaks differently and that’s what makes English such a unique language.

With that, happy fall, or autumn! You decide.

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About the Contributor
Annemarie Mullet
Annemarie Mullet, Managing Editor

Annemarie Mullet is a senior from Kirkland, Wash. She is a digital arts major and creative writing minor. Annemarie also works at the Writing Center and in the digital art lab. When not working or doing school, Annemarie can be found doing art, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her ESA bunny, Mocha.

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