Do you prefer to name the third season of the year with the colourful autumn or practical fall word? And do you know that beyond the different words used, Britain and North America also differ by outlining the duration of the season. On the basis of the Irish calendar and Gaelic traditions, the Brits start with autumn in August and enjoy it until October. The Americans enjoy the fall from September until December.
A long time ago, life was simpler. The Brits named the season harvest. Actually the Anglo-Saxons only had two seasons – winter and non-winter.
The word autumn came from Latin through Old French and was introduced into the English language, by Chaucer, who in 1374 described how “Autumn comes again, heavy of apples.”
The alternative word fall traces its origins to old Germanic languages and in the English language comes from the expressions like “fall of the leaf” and “fall of the year”and was in use by the mid-1500s. This was the same time when the word autumn begun to displace harvest. The word was used in a 1526 translation of the New Testament, “Trees rotten in autumn”. And not to forget that Shakespeare gave its share in popularizing autumn, starting from A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the word autumn was numerously used and most remarkably in Titania’s speech referring to the chain of life as seasons change : “….the spring, the summer, the childing autumn, angry winter, change.” In The Taming of the Shrew Petruchio sees the challenge of taming and conquering Kate equal to boarding a ship in unstable weather: “For I will board her, though she chide as loud, As thunder when the clouds in autumn crack.”
In the next century the terms harvest and fall gradually became obsolete in Britain and autumn came to relate solely to the season. However, fall got a second chance as the English emigrants to the British colonies in North America brought the term with them to described the time of year when the leaves fall from the trees.