Started another book today. It’s a fictional novel set in Russian-occupied China in 1904. There were lots of Russian pronunciations to wait for so I’ve had this book waiting around for a few weeks and have had time to read it all the way through. It’s only about 10 hours long, so by starting today and doing a little on each day this weekend I should finish on Wednesday. I think I’m going to enjoy it.
It’s strange. Being a little quieter today, as I’m not up against a deadline, I’m not feeling as much enthusiasm to get this particular column in the bag. Also strange since it’s quite an achievement to have completed a whole week (this is #8 of 30 days of writing) – you’d think I’d be all enthused or something. Maybe yesterday was such a day of vulnerability that today I feel myself putting up walls again.
So, let’s see what safe topic I can pick to talk about…
How about this: At one point in the past week I was thinking about the changing of the seasons and how, in England, this season is ‘autumn’ while here in the US it’s ‘fall’. And I started musing on how I much prefer the English word… ‘Fall’ seems so ordinary, while ‘autumn’ seems to possess a certain richness and romance. I felt that autumn was the more authentic, perhaps the original name for the season… certainly had to be older than ‘fall’ which seems modern, somehow. And being the American choice, I felt that to be a certainty!
Well, over tea yesterday I mentioned this to my wife. We talked about all the names: spring, summer, autumn (fall), and winter. Setting aside ‘fall’ it appeared to us that ‘spring’ was the other odd one out. Summer, winter and autumn we felt were probably inherited from Latin or something eons ago, but ‘spring’?
We started researching. Turns out that as late as the 18th century people often only referred to the two seasons ‘summer’ and ‘winter’. If they spoke at all of the other two (known around the 12/13th centuries as ‘lenten’ and ‘harvest’) they couldn’t agree on the dates for when they began or ended. The names for summer and winter come from Old-English or ‘Proto-Germanic’ sources so I was right in that they have been around for quite some time in one form or another. But what about the derivations for spring, autumn and fall? Autumn, it turns out is an interloper from old French and Latin. It’s regular use coincided historically with the use of ‘fall’, both becoming common by the 16th century – so they are roughly the same age. That was a surprise.
One source says spring is shortened from ‘springing time’ which is possible – but that might suggest a ‘falling time’? No, I don’t think so. I much prefer the source that tells me that spring and fall (words recognized as names for those seasons by the 16th century) were shortened from ‘spring of the leaf’ and ‘fall of the leaf’ respectively – which I love and which makes perfect sense.
From this time on I shall try to refer to these seasons by those names…spring-of-the-leaf and fall-of-the-leaf.
That said, Autumn still has a special place in my heart and I’ll find it hard to let go.