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The SvP English Debate: Fall or Autumn?

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The Sidewalk vs. Pavement (SvP) English Debate is basically a series of posts where I ask you all questions about some nuances in the English language, and which nuance you personally use the most/you think makes the most sense. They could be vocabulary-based (like today's entry), grammar-based, or whatever else I can think of. (And of course you're free to suggest topics, too!) I'll test-drive this series with a few posts and then we'll see what happens from there.

For this first post, we're going to talk about that section of the year between September and December. The leaves change colors, the kiddies may be playing mischievous tricks on each other, and big businesses think it's okay to start talking about Santa Claus even though it's just not. That's right, we're talking about the fall season... I'm sorry, I mean the autumn season... Wait, I mean--which one do I mean?!

From my understanding, "fall" is primarily used in North America (specifically Canada and the U.S.), while the "autumn" is primarily used... well, everywhere else. That being said, when I was younger I was taught to use these two terms interchangeably, so I actually didn't realize that these words were culturally significant until a few months ago, when I visited a video game website that insisted on making the distinction between a "fall" video game release in North America and an "autumn" video game release in Europe.

So. which word do you personally use--"fall" or "autumn"? Or, do you use the terms interchangeably? Are you conscious about which one you use when talking to different people, or do you assume they will know what you're talking about when you use the word you're most comfortable with? Do you think both terms are now common enough around the world that there's no need to make a distinction between North American "fall" and international "autumn", or do you think these words are still culturally significant? Leave your thoughts below!

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Updated 6th August 2014 at 06:51 PM by Fairy Ice Ricky



  1. Chibster's Avatar
    I think I'm going to like this blog series!

    As for me, I've said both, but I've stuck to saying "fall". It feels weird when I say "autumn". xD
  2. Kthleen's Avatar
    US here. I'm... weird. I almost never use "autumn," and when I do, I'm not sure why I do; yet for some odd reason, using "fall"... I don't know, bothers me? I keep thinking about it getting mixed up with the verb/other noun "fall," yet 1. context should be enough to sort that out (seriously, how else would "I like fall" be understood? Unless you think I'm a thrillseeker and/or masochist with bad English...), and 2. why don't I feel the same way about "spring"? *sigh* Stupid brain.... Anyway, other than "I hear 'autumn' but don't really use it," I probably don't really have much experience with the "cultural significance." (Unless that's the subconscious reason for the above problem: "The people around me use X, but everyone else uses Y." )
    Updated 5th August 2014 at 09:07 AM by Kthleen
  3. Leggo's Avatar
    I guess these words are culturally significant since there are culture differences between North America and Europe.

    For example, small talk between strangers is more common in North America than it is in Europe, iirc.
  4. henrymidfields's Avatar
    Both words seems the same to me...
  5. Fairy Ice Ricky's Avatar
    @kyogre545 - Great, 'cause I already have a list of topics I wanna look at, so be prepared! XD And I will admit, as much as I use the word, "autumn" still feels a little weird when I use it. It's almost like it leaves a bad taste in my mouth or something, haha.

    @Kthleen - I'm the same exact way--for whatever reason I feel like I need to clarify "fall", but I never feel the need to clarify "spring"! I wonder if it's because we know there's another word we can use to talk about the fall season but there's only one word to talk about the spring season?

    @Leggo - Yeah I agree that, as the saying goes, "When in Rome do as the Romans do". But do you think these words have cultural-specific definitions? Like if someone from the US were to go to the UK, they'd have to know to say "crisps" if they want potato chips or else they're gonna keep getting a plate of french fries when they order (and vice-versa). Do you think they'd have to do the same for "fall"/"autumn"?

    @henrymidfields - That's totally cool! :) Is there one that you find yourself using more than the other by chance?
  6. PhilosophyPhlare's Avatar
    I use Autumn when I feel like adding flavor which is rarely.
  7. henrymidfields's Avatar
    @Fairy Ice Ricky If I remember correctly, Aussies/Sydneysiders seems to use Autumn, and I've been going with that. When I used to live in the US, it was fall. :)


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