Thursday, September 27, 2012

Havest (for Harvest)

I run across a lot of whimsical articles online, but one recent headline especially caught my eye, having the shy though striking air of an autumn leaf as it falls to the ground. "Why is autumn," asks Slate, "the only season with two names?" At first the answer appears as inevitable as the changing of the seasons, and perhaps even a bit too obvious. I mean, what else is there to say besides leaves fall in the fall? (That really oughta, um, do it.) But of course there's more; there's always more. Summer and winter apparently were long considered the most important seasons of the year, with the other two just filling in between them with various nomenclature. In the 12th and 13th centuries, spring was known as lenten and fall was called harvest. A century or two later, spring would also be referred to as ver, from the Latin, or primetemps, from the French. By the 1600s, the two lesser seasons were going by the phrases "spring of the leaf" and "fall of the leaf"; over the next few centuries, those leaves would fall off and leave us with simply spring and fall. However, it seems that those who hesitate, lexicalogically, are lost. The Fowler brothers, in The King's English, claimed that it was too late for Brits to adopt the word fall: "We once had as good a right to it as the Americans, but we have chosen to let the right lapse, and to use the word now is no better than larceny." Thanks to Forrest Wickman for allowing me to harvest and sow this lovely bit of info before it falls between the cracks. There were five cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 86 in WorldCat.

(Leaves, 11 November 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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