Call it autumn, call it fall, but there’s something special about the only season with two names.

I’ve always considered fall to be my favorite season. I enjoy the crisp, cool, clean air, and the unique beauty that landscapes take on.

To me, fall is the “nicest” time of year, when the temperatures aren’t extreme and air masses – for the most part – lack excessive humidity. Basically, fall is kind of like what Goldilocks felt about the third bowl of porridge in “The Story of The Three Bears” – it’s just right.

Or it can be, anyway. Sure, record low and high temperatures are pretty darn low and high in the fall, but the odds are usually good that readings will be far south of triple digits and well north of single digits.

But what’s up with a season having two names? I don’t know if I’d call it confusing, because the English language (in all its strangeness) has plenty of examples where more than one word exists to describe the same thing. But some folks kind of don’t know what to call this season – although I guess you hear “fall” more often.

That problem doesn’t exist during the other three seasons, but for a few months out of each year, we’re faced with the strange dilemma of more or less taking sides with one of the two camps in the ongoing battle of “name that season.”

And it’s not like the “Missour-ee” versus “Missour-uh” thing. Those are just variations on the pronunciation of a single word; we’re talking two entirely different words here.

I guess there’s something to be said for not taking sides and sort of waffling back and forth between the season’s two names. But for some reason, that doesn’t seem right either. I can’t put a finger on why – it just doesn’t.

With origins in both French and Latin languages, forms of the word “autumn” were probably used as early as the 12th century, but became common by the 1500s. Meanwhile, the word “fall” can be traced back to old Germanic language, and the term became widely used in England in the 1500s, as kind of a shortened version of “fall of a leaf” and one or two other phrases with regard to “falling.”

But while fall eventually gave way to autumn in Britain, settlers in North America latched onto fall as the preferred moniker for the season, and it continues to be the more commonly used name in America today. But that doesn’t mean autumn is out completely. To the contrary, a version of it with a capital ‘A’ is often among the top 100 names for newborn girls.

And what of summer, winter and spring? Are we to believe they’re not worthy of having a second name?

Believe me, I’d have little trouble coming up with other names for them. For example, winter’s other title could be derived from whatever the Latin word for “ice” is, or we could just say “freeze,” as in a shortened version of “freeze of the toes” and other frozen phrases.

But maybe it would make more sense to have one name for each season instead of adding one to the three that now have only one apiece. After all, simplifying is “in,” and less is more, right?

In any case, the season we’re in right now is a nice time of year, no matter what you call it. It’s a great period to get out and walk a dog, wet a line, dig in the yard, paint an outbuilding, or just get outside doing almost anything, because you be confident that after two minutes you won’t be drenched in sweat or have frost on your nose hair.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that this fall lasts for a good long while, and the Ozarks doesn’t get overrun by a “polar vortex” any time soon.

As William Shakespeare wrote in his play “Romeo and Juliet,” “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Fall or autumn – it’s a pretty sweet season.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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