Column: The four seasons


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

This article is not about the singing quartet featuring Frankie Valli, nor is it about the international chain of hotels. Today, I’d like to tackle when to capitalize seasons.

What can I say? I’m on a caps kick lately. It’s probably because I’ve been reading a book about George Washington featuring several examples of his correspondence. Those Founding Fathers loved capitalizing anything they deemed important–solemn abstractions like Life, Liberty and Happiness–and pretty much anything else they wanted to emphasize. I like their epistolary style.

First, let’s look at when to not capitalize seasons. The basic rule is: do not capitalize seasons when you are using them generically. Here’s an example: Indiana’s humidity levels in the summer are off the charts. And another: In Narnia, it is always winter, never Christmas.

Now, when should you upgrade seasons to proper noun status? When seasons are part of a proper noun, capitalize them. For example: now that the Winter Olympics are over, I don’t know what to do with myself. And another: During Fall Semester 2005 I had a mystery virus that stumped all the doctors on campus. Eventually, my body fought it off and I survived.

With my remaining word count, let’s examine fall and autumn–which is it? Do we need two words for the same thing? I like “fall” because it says what it is; not only do the leaves start to fall, but the temperatures do as well. In fact, spring and fall both appeared in English in the 16th century as “spring of the leaf” and “fall of the leaf.” They were eventually shortened to “spring” and “fall.”

Autumn came from the French word automne. At this point, fall and autumn are interchangeable. I prefer “fall,” but won’t judge anyone who uses “autumn,” although autumn is kind of like fall’s snooty cousin. I do think it’s silly that we have two words that mean literally the exact same thing.

All I have to say is that I can’t wait for Spring 2018; this winter has felt like we’re living in North Dakota (which totally exists) or Minnesota or something. There are only so many 15-degree days a person can handle.