The Reason Why Americans Refer to Autumn as Fall

alex_ugalek/iStock via Getty Images
alex_ugalek/iStock via Getty Images

Monday, September 23, 2019, marks the start of a new season—but what exactly you should call that season depends on where in the world you are and whom you ask. In Great Britain, the third season of the year usually has only one name: autumn. But if you hop across the Atlantic, you'll find that people use both fall and autumn interchangeably when referring to this time of year, making it the only season in the English language with two widely accepted names. So what is it about the season of Halloween pop-up stores, denim jackets, and pumpkin spice lattes that makes it so special?

According to Dictionary.com, fall isn't a modern nickname that followed the more traditional autumn. The two terms are actually first recorded within a few hundred years of each other.

Before either word emerged in the lexicon, the season between summer and winter was known as harvest, or hærfest in Old English. The word is of Germanic stock and meant "picking," "plucking," or "reaping," a nod to the act of gathering and preserving crops before winter.

In the 1500s, English speakers began referring to the seasons separating the cold and warm months as either the fall of the leaf or spring of the leaf, or fall and spring for short. Both terms were simple and evocative, but for some reason, only spring had staying power in Britain. By the end of the 1600s, autumn, from the French word autompne and the Latin autumnus, had overtaken fall as the standard British term for the third season.

Around the same time England adopted autumn, the first-ever British American colonists were voyaging to North America. With them they brought the words fall and autumn, and while the former fell out of fashion overseas, it solidified itself in the local vernacular by the time America won its independence. Today, using both words to describe the season before winter is still a uniquely American behavior.

Fall and autumn have the most complicated etymology, but there's a story behind all the words we use describe the four seasons. Here's how each season got its name.

[h/t Dictionary.com]

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

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Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Sony

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Apple/Amazon

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What Is a Scuttlebutt, and Why Do We Like to Hear It?

Photo by Courtney Nuss on Unsplash

Casual conversation is home to a variety of prompts. You might ask someone how they’re doing, what’s new, or if they’ve done anything interesting recently. Sometimes, you can ask them what the scuttlebutt is. “What’s the scuttlebutt?” you’d say, for example, and then they’d reply with the solicited scuttlebutt.

We can easily infer that scuttlebutt is a slang term for information or maybe even gossip. But what exactly is scuttlebutt, and why did it become associated with idle water cooler talk?

According to Merriam-Webster, a scuttlebutt referred to a cask on sailing ships in the 1800s that contained drinking water for those on board. It was later used as the name of the drinking fountain found on a ship or in a Naval installation. The cask was known as a butt, while scuttle was taken from the French word escoutilles and means hatch or hole. A scuttlebutt was therefore a hatch in the cask.

Because sailors usually received orders from shouting supervisors, talking amongst themselves was discouraged. Since sailors could congregate around the fountain, it became a place to finally catch up and exchange gossip, making scuttlebutt synonymous with casual conversation. The scuttlebutt was really the only place to do it.

Nautical technology made the scuttlebutt obsolete, but the term endured, becoming a catch-all word for unfounded rumors.

The next time someone asks you what the scuttlebutt is, now you can tell them.

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