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Why Does Fall/Autumn Have Two Names?

Ambivalence over the name of the third season of the year reflects its status as a relatively new concept. As natural as it seems today, people haven’t always thought of the year in terms of four seasons.

Fifteen hundred years ago, the Anglo-Saxons marked the passage of time with just one season: winter, a concept considered equivalent to hardship or adversity that metaphorically represented the year in its entirety. For example, in the Old English epic poem “Beowulf,” the title character rescues a kingdom that had been terrorized by a monster for “12 winters.”

According to “Folk Taxonomies in Early English” (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003) byEarl R. Anderson, the importance of winter in marking the passage of time is evidenced by the constancy of its name over time and across many languages. “Winter” probably derives from a root word meaning “wet” that traces back more than 5,000 years.

Summer is also a time-honored concept, though perhaps never quite as weighty a one as winter, and this is evidenced by greater ambivalence over its name. In Old English, the word “gear” connoted the warmer part of the year. This word gave way to the Germanic “sumer,” which is related to the word for “half.” Eventually, speakers of Middle English (the language used from the 11th to 15th centuries) conceived of the year in terms of halves: “sumer,” the warm half, and “winter,” the cold half. This two-season frame of reference dominated Western thinking as late as the 18th century. [What Causes Earth’s Seasons?]

Incidentally, Chinese culture also had a two-season framework, but there, the major seasonal polarity was autumn (symbolizing adversity) and spring (symbolizing regeneration), with little importance given to the extremes of summer and winter.

In the West, the transitional seasons, being more trivial, were “not fully lexicalized in the language” until much later, Anderson wrote. Lexicalization is the realization of an idea in a single word.

In 12th- and 13th-century Middle English, spring was called “lent” or “lenten” (but this also meant the religious observance), and fall, when it was considered a season at all, was called “haerfest” (which also meant the act of taking in crops). In the 14th and 15th centuries, “lenten” gave way to a panoply of terms, including “spring,” “spryngyng tyme,” “ver” (Latin for “green”), “primetemps” (French for “new time”), as well as more complicated descriptive phrases. By the 17th century, “spring” had won out.

In terms of seasons, the period spanning the transition from summer to winter had the weakest credentials of all, and so it got lexicalized last. “Autumn,” a Latin word, first appears in English in the late 14th century, and gradually gained on “harvest.” In the 17th century, “fall” came into use, almost certainly as a poetic complement to “spring,” and it competed with the other terms.

Finally, in the 18th century, “harvest” had lost its seasonal meaning altogether, and “fall” and “autumn” emerged as the two accepted names for the third season. But by the 19th century, “fall” had become an “Americanism”: a word primarily used in the United States and one that was frowned upon by British lexicographers.

The persistence of two terms for the third season in the United States, while somewhat of a mystery, may have something to do with the spread of English to the American continent at the very epoch when “fall” began jockeying for position with “autumn”: the 17th century. At that time, both terms were adopted stateside, and the younger, more poetic “fall” gained the upper hand. Back in Britain, however, “autumn” won out. The continued acceptance of “autumn” in the United States may reflect the influence, or at least the proximity, of English culture and literature.

According to Slate, British lexicographers begrudgingly admit that the United States got the better end of the stick. In “The King’s English” (1908), H.W. Fowler wrote, “Fall is better on the merits thanautumn, in every way: it is short, Saxon (like the other three season names), picturesque; it reveals its derivation to every one who uses it, not to the scholar only, like autumn.”


By Natalie Wolchover |


10 Most Meaningful passages – Walden – H.D. Thoreau

“Walden” brings together a rather prescriptive series of reflections, covering society, human nature, self-reliance and mankind’s relationship to each other and to nature. Widely considered a countercultural manifesto, Walden, nonetheless offers a glimpse into the thickset, austere and escapist attitude, prevalent at the time. I hope these 10 passages save you from the “Quiet desperation” inherent in reading this overly morose text.
Confucius said, “To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.”
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The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
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Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.
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For the improvements of ages have had but little influence on the essential laws of man’s existence; as our skeletons, probably, are not to be distinguished from those of our ancestors.
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One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.
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Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
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Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles.
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Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
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This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet.
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In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.
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‘Raeding’ Nature

Heard of Tom Brown, one of the most revered naturalists in America? His tracking skills and his spiritual philosophy offer us a rare insight into the habits of the natural world, but he is often overlooked by others as a new age loon.

In perhaps his most famous book, The Tracker, Tom introduces the concept of, ‘Concentric Rings’—->

…the first thing when learning concentric rings is to establish the base rhythm of the symphony [Environment/Forest]. Once the symphony is established, any disturbance in the flow becomes a concentric ring. Whether the symphony or disturbance becomes more dramatically loud or whether it becomes quieter, it is a concentric ring. Any change at all means something.

Tom Brown later explains the value of this systematic but silent appraisal of an environment. And with regards to Alchemy the CR concept has a great deal of practical merit. He offers a bridge between  the spiritual world and the real world, this is where most mystical literature falls short —->

A good way to practice is to learn to establish the symphony. Any time a fluctuation occurs, go quietly over to see what has made the disturbance and how far out the disturbances or concentric rings can be detected. Try to stalk so that you do not create a concentric ring that interferes with that which is going on at the moment. The more you practice, and it will be frustrating at first, the more will be the rewards of being able to read what is going on at greater and greater distances.

From The Tracker, 1984, published by the Tracker School

It was once said that a good Apache scout could read the concentric rings of one, ‘white man’ eight miles away.

In the big city, these rules are utterly real! With a suitably detached mindset, one can watch the Aristotelian Causal network in full flow. There is usually something, “keeping time”, perhaps a builders hammer, which dictates when the next event will occur, the real skill comes with noticing the flow and transference of meaning between Egregores, something that could be likened to Mercury, Qi or Tao.