SPRING FORWARD, AUTUMN BACK?

Is it Autumn or Fall?  My husband and I have debated the name of the season for the past thirty years.  To me, fall has always been fall.  My parents said so; when you’re a kid, they’re the authority on everything.  That hit a snag when I started school.  Apparently, the last two meals
of the day are lunch and dinner, not dinner and supper, as I had always been told.  My lunch box was proof.  My parents disputed this claim.  Back in the day, when they walked ten miles, uphill both ways, to the one-room schoolhouse, they had carried dinner pails.  Ask a teenage Wal-Mart clerk where to find “dinner pails” and you’ll get a blank look, the same one you get if you inquire about canning jars or clothespins.  The 80-year-old greeter will know what you’re after; if he’s a wise-ass, he’ll snicker and direct you to the Olsen’s Mercantile in Walnut Grove.  Fall, however, was validated on the bulletin board in our classroom.
F-A-L-L, spelled out in big, official-looking letters and surrounded by a mélange of red, orange, and yellow construction paper leaves.  If a nun said it was so, it was so.  Nuns were demi-gods, after all.  Fall remained rock-solid, unchallenged until I married a man who insisted “autumn” was the correct word for the season between summer and winter.  If that were true, it would be the dinner/supper dilemma reincarnated, not to mention poor Sister Josetta having to suffer in purgatory, her penance for lying.  The librarian hedged, saying it could go either way; fall was simply vernacular for the “proper” term, autumn.  Not one to lose sleep over being proper, I used fall and autumn interchangeably
for years without really thinking about it.  Then I did think about it:

FALL BY THE WAYSIDE

Mankind was damned
by its fall from grace;
we fall off the wagon,
we fall on our face

We fall ill but we never
fall into good health
We fall into ruin,
not winnings or wealth

We fall blindly in love,
a free fall of the heart,
falling out, then away,
‘til it all falls apart

We fall over ourselves
but fall short of success,
falling victim, it seems,
to our own eagerness

Fall down on the job
or fall prey to a scam
and you’ll need to resort
to your fall-back plan

Pleas fall on deaf ears
A joke might fall flat
Fall too far behind and
you’ll fall off the map

We fall on our swords,
take the fall for a friend,
doomed to fall ‘til the big
curtain falls at the end

Connotations of gloom
are surely the reason
that AUTUMN, not FALL,
is my favorite season

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17 thoughts on “SPRING FORWARD, AUTUMN BACK?

  1. Tippy Gnu October 1, 2017 / 9:28 am

    Autumn does sound more positive than Fall. When I was growing up I experienced a similar confusion over the name of this season. I used the term Fall, and often wondered when the heck Autumn was supposed to occur. Thanks for clearing everything up with your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 1, 2017 / 2:17 pm

      Glad to help, Tippy. But wouldn’t it be great if we got to have autumn AND fall? There are far fewer idioms (sayings) about autumn, so there’s less chance of a bad connotation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marissa Bergen October 1, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    Ha, ha! I always thought of them as interchangeable but when you point out all the different uses of the word ‘fall’ I see why an argument could be made for the use of autumn.
    Although way older, I think I’d be with the teenage cashier at Walmart when it comes to knowing what a dinner pail is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 1, 2017 / 2:25 pm

      Falling is never good, is it? So say the commercials for those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons. Regarding the dinner pail, think back to Little House on the Prairie, where Laura Ingalls and the other kids carried their mid-day meal to school in a metal pail with a kitchen towel over the top to keep the flies out. That said, I wouldn’t be too quick to adopt this word, one generally reserved for bumpkins who “just fell off the turnip truck.” 🙂

      Like

  3. Peter Klopp October 1, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    If I was going to use a more poetic or flowery language in a romantic story or poem, I would prefer autumn. You really made a good case in your poem for the use of fall in more negative sense, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 2, 2017 / 2:50 pm

      Thanks, Peter. Autumn sounds suave and sophisticated, where fall sounds almost accidental. Fall is definitely more fun in terms of word-play. Personally, I loved the librarian’s gentle, neutral assessment, calling it “vernacular,” which is nothing more than a fancy word for common. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. L. T. Garvin, Author October 1, 2017 / 11:01 pm

    Oh Joan, what a fun word play with fall! Well, it was always supper at my house, until I grew up, went to the “city” and learned about dinner. I never had a dinner pail, but I’m sure my grandmothers did. I still say fall, and I see a lot of fall bulletin boards. It isn’t even an issue for us Texans, though. We are still having summer, and most likely will until the middle or end of November, lol. I’m always falling short of success and never into winnings or wealth. Just doesn’t seem fair (insert winky face). 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 2, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      Thanks, Lana. It was fun to write. Supper is for country mice and dinner is for city mice, I guess. Who ever heard of “Supper and a Movie”? No one. Because by the time the country mice get their chores done and eat their supper, they’re too tuckered out to do anything but go to bed. It will be summer in Texas until the end of November? Yikes! I love the cold snap in the air, wearing sweaters, the smell of wood-burning fireplaces, mugs of hot chocolate with little marshmallows. Success is elusive but maybe one day, everything will FALL into place. We can hope. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Quirky Girl October 2, 2017 / 4:34 pm

    When you put it like that, autumn sounds infinitely more appealing, regardless of the fact that leaves change color and, well, fall in the fall. Or autumn. Or whatever the heck this season between summer and winter is… 😝

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 2, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      Yeah, Quirky, I thought so, too. And it’s true leaves fall in the fall, but they’re dead and brown and kind of rotten-smelling, and you have to rake them. Maybe we could have autumn first, while the leaves are still pretty and hanging on the trees, and then fall when they fall, an icky in-between season that ushers in winter? IDK, just a thought. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. K E Garland October 3, 2017 / 8:47 am

    Love this! I’d have to say I’d rather use “autumn” too, given the negative connotation of fall lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 3, 2017 / 7:30 pm

      Thanks, KE! Autumn won this one by a landslide. There’s no such thing as a “great fall” (unless you’re Humpty Dumpty), so have a great autumn! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. chevvy8 October 8, 2017 / 6:23 am

    In our neck of the woods, there has never been a debate, Autumn is Autumn, we never used the word Fall and since English is a second language for most people, many would probably not understand this meaning of fall. Having said that, I’d love to try my hand at using the word for positive effect. I’ll think about it.

    I guess where I come from, only posh people spoke of dinner. To this day, we eat supper in my house😀 Great poem nevertheless Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. circumstance227 October 27, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    Love this. And you make a compelling argument for the A-word. Unfortunately, leaves and nuts and unharvested fruit don’t “autumn” from the trees – they “fall”. I rest my case.

    As to that other question, “dinner” is the warm meal of the day. We Amis with Germanic et al. roots who tend to have a warm meal at midday, call it “dinner” and everything thereafter “supper”. Those who have a warm meal in the evening call it “dinner” and the thing that happened earlier was “lunch”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 27, 2017 / 9:16 pm

      Fall seems like the right word to me, too, but apparently “autumn” is the proper term. Parents might lie, nuns might lie, but a librarian? No way. Your “warm meal” explanation makes a lot of sense in the lunch-dinner-supper dilemma. But if that’s how it works, my parents (who are both of German ancestry) had it backwards–we ate bologna sandwiches at mid-day and our hot meal, always, in the evening. So I shall have to give both of them twenty lashes with a wet noodle. Or strudel. Or whatever. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • circumstance227 October 28, 2017 / 4:42 pm

        As a language teacher slash linguist, I can say with certainty that when lots of people use a word and it is perfectly understood and no one is offended, it cannot be “improper”.

        Liked by 1 person

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