fall and autumn

Paul Frank paulfrank at WANADOO.FR
Fri Aug 4 11:09:36 UTC 2000

> Perhaps it was an editorial decision at the IHT rather than the NYT,
> instead.  In British Englishes, it's never "fall", always "autumn" for
> the season.  To me, it just looks like somebody hit "select all" in the
> Find & Replace option.
> --Aaron

It may have been an editorial decision at the IHT, but I somehow doubt it.
The word autumn crops up every day in the New York Times. Americans are of
course free to choose between the words fall and autumn. This is from this
morning's edition:

"General Motors disclosed last March that it was taking a smaller step in
the same direction, using suspension changes to lower the frame rails on its
new Chevrolet Blazers, GMC Envoys and Oldsmobile Bravadas by up to two
inches as they are introduced this autumn."

Britons did once say fall or at least "fall of the leaf." Burchfield
explains in The New Fowler's: "The third season of the year was called the
autumn from the 14c. onwards, and also, in the British Isles, the fall of
the leaf or simply the fall from the 16c. until about 1800. As time passed,
autumn settled down as the regular term in Britain, whereas the fall of the
leaf (less frequently the fall of the year) and then fall by itself
gradually became standard in America from the late 17c. onwards. Autumn and
fall are familiar names to everyone in each of the two countries, but in
day-to-day speech autumn is the only standard form in BrE and fall is
equally standard in AmE." In 1965 Sir Ernest Gowers remarked "As was said in
[H.W. Fowler's] The King's English, fall is better on the merits than autumn
in every way, and we once had as good a right to it as the Americans, but we
have chosen to let the right lapse."

Paul Frank
Business, financial and legal translation
>From German, French, Chinese, Spanish,
Italian, Dutch and Portuguese into English
Thollon-les-Memises, 74500 Evian, France
paulfrank at wanadoo.fr

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