Fall or autumn?
‘Tis the season – of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and attempting to call the time of year by its American name.
Unlike the unrelenting stacks of leaves blowing into our driveway – despite my occasional efforts to remove them – I’m not sure ‘fall’ will stick.
Because a season of low light, cool evenings, and chilly air presaging the arrival of winter is an ‘autumnal’ one. Full stop (not ‘period’).
The word itself has a long history, stretching back to the 8th century. Its origins are in the Old French ‘autompne’, which crossed with the Latin ‘autumnus’ to create the late Middle English ‘autumn’. From there John Keats and his ilk ran with it.
‘Fall’ is fine, but it just doesn’t have the same historical heft. It’s more of a verb – part of ‘autumn’, but hardly the full experience.
And so, the season of spectacular leaf color, and equally spectacular Oregon rainfall, remains ‘autumn’ – in my company at least.
But my annual wrangling with the topic is part of a bigger question. As an immigrant to the U.S., should I drop the old words for the new?
Is it an auto shop or a garage? A line or a queue? Fries or chips? A restroom or a toilet? I could go on.
Should I adapt? Or should I instead adopt some advice. Another Irishman who spent time in America, Oscar Wilde, remarked that, “we have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language”.
Little has changed since Wilde made that comment more than 130 years ago. Some things never change, it seems.
To that end, autumn will always be fall here. Just not to me.