Ask people what their favorite season is, and a lot will say fall (or is it autumn?).

I’d have to agree. I’ve always considered autumn (or is it fall?) to be my preferred season. I enjoy the crisp, cool, clean air, and the unique beauty that landscapes take on.

To me, fall (or is it autumn?) is indeed the “nicest” time of year, when the temperatures aren’t extreme and air masses in the Ozarks typically lack excessive humidity. Basically, autumn (or is it 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 during fall (or is it autumn?) are pretty darn low and high, 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 I sometimes wonder what to call this third season of the three that are fully contained within a calendar year, although I guess I use “fall” more often, like most people.

I must say it’s interesting that the same issue doesn’t exist during the other three seasons, because they haven’t been assigned an alias. But for about three months out of each year, we’re faced with the dilemma of more or less taking sides in an ongoing game 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, and 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 (like some politicians do with pronouncing the Show Me State’s name). 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 and became common by the 16th century. 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 related to things falling.

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. On the contrary; a version of it with a capital ‘A’ was No. 66 in the list of the top 1,000 names for baby girls in 2021.

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 still “in,” and less is more, right?

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

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 pretty sweet.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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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