autumn vs. fall

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Nov 9 18:54:14 UTC 2010


Actually, I subscribed to the IHT until last year (now I read the NY
Times and the Post on my Kindle) and noticed that the word "fall" in
the Times was often replaced by the word "autumn" in the IHT (I
checked a couple of times). As you know, the IHT is owned by the Times
and carries articles from the Times. Once, about four years ago, I
noticed that a copy editor had mistakenly replaced "fall" by "autumn"
when it obviously didn't refer to a season but to a drop. Pretty


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland
paulfrank at
paulfrank at

On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 7:38 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: autumn vs. fall
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 5:43 PM +0100 11/9/10, Paul Frank wrote:
>>Brander Matthews (1852-1929) once wrote, "An American with a sense of
>>the poetic cannot but prefer to the imported word 'autumn' the native
>>and more logical word 'fall,' which the British have strangely
>>suffered to drop into disuse."
>>Is the word "autumn," as opposed to "fall," gaining popular currency
>>in American English? Over the past five years or so, I've noticed it
>>more and more in American newspapers, magazines, and on the radio. I
>>realize that the word "autumn" has always been available to Americans,
>>but I'm wondering if it's becoming more common...
> And not just over the past 5 years. Â Compare this eloquent plaint
> from over a decade ago:
> =================
> ... "Since the autumn of the Berlin Wall a decade ago, rightist
> violence has become a fact of German life" (IHT, August 2 [2000], p.
> 5). This makes me think that a New York Times slot man or drudge
> makes it his business to replace the word fall with the posher but in
> my opinion uglier word autumn.
> More likely some stylistic rule that makes the change. Reminds me of
> that list of songs printed somewhere, that included "African-American
> is the Color of My True Love's Hair."
> RIma [McKinzey]
> =================
> For British English, though, a distinction is sometimes made between
> the three-month season and the actual leaf-dropping, as witness the
> minimal pair in this observation:
> The fall had come late this year, and after one of the most beautiful
> autumns she could remember.
> --P. D. James (2004), The Murder Room
> LH

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