Fall or autumn? Both are correct, right? What you call the season between summer and winter is really just based on preference, but why are there even two names to begin with?
In the earliest societies, fall and spring weren’t even really a thing. English speakers considered the year split into two seasons: summer and winter, hot and cold, bounty and hardship. None of this in-between nonsense. In fact, years weren’t even measured by months or seasons at all in the earliest documentation of the world, just by winters. The word “winter” came from a root word meaning “wet,” and “summer” started as “sumer,” meaning “half” (as in, half the year). The two-season year lasted until as late as the 18th century.
The last two seasons to be recognized started with other names altogether. In 12th- and 13th-century Middle English, “lent” was used for spring and “harvest” for fall. They make sense, of course, even if we don’t use these names like that anymore: Lent is really only heard as what Catholics call the 40 days leading up to Easter, and “harvest” is a pretty overarching theme for fall and farming and whatnot.
Eventually, “spring” emerged for one season, and “fall” and “autumn” (a Latin word that we lifted from Old French) hung around for the other; “harvest” dropped out. The English sayings “spring of the leaf” and “fall of the leaf” were used poetically to describe the bloom and subsequent wither during these respective seasons, so “fall” ended up sticking as a complement to “spring.”
Why is “autumn” still around, then? Because the Brits hated “fall.” The English language started spreading to America around the same time that “fall” and “autumn” were battling, so they both ended up making it across the pond; the English decided to simply keep “autumn,” although they apparently admit that America got it right.
So, next time you’re in London in November, be sure to brag about being able to say, “Happy fall!”