2825: Autumn and Fall

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Autumn and Fall
Of course in reality this is just a US/UK thing; in British English, 'fall' is the brief period in between and 'autumn' is the main season.
Title text: Of course in reality this is just a US/UK thing; in British English, 'fall' is the brief period in between and 'autumn' is the main season.


Autumn, also known as "fall" in the United States (short for 'fall of the leaf'), is the season between the end of summer and the beginning of winter. These terms are used interchangeably, but Randall in this comic treats them as separate seasons. His timeline uses "autumn" as the season between the end of summer and the "fall equinox", and the season of "fall" as the period after that until winter. While many different parts of the world use different ways of reckoning the seasons (eg, a two-season system in the tropics or a six-season system in South Asia), nowhere uses the type of five-season system shown in the comic, nor the extrapolated eight-season system it may even imply.

The comic depicts two of the commonly used boundaries, for any given hemisphere, for the recognized end of summer. While other cultures have adopted yet other dates, according to their own calendars or local experience, Randall may have encountered several other 'standard' methods of dividing the year.

  • Some treatments of the seasons (not shown) treat the summer solstice very much as "midsummer", and all other seasons also more or less equally straddling their own equinoxes/remaining solstice, putting the seasonal boundaries half way between each of these astronomically significant points.
  • For others, the equinoctial/solstitial dates are used for the changeover time, so that autumn/fall starts upon the equinox (shown) and ends at the astronomically shortest day which is then the start of winter. This system tends to be traditional where the annual warming and cooling of the climate significantly 'lags' the solar calendar.
  • Meteorological seasons are handily aligned to months, for administrative reasons. Spring (short for 'spring of the leaf') is March through May, summer across June to August, the September start (to the close of November) is as illustrated, leaving winter to be covered by December and on until the end of the following February. Or shifted round by two of the triples for the southern hemisphere.
  • For practical purposes, many in the U.S. treat Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer: this is the day many local pools close for the winter, people start watching football rather than baseball, have their last picnic of the year, etc.

The joke here is that, because Americans do not use the term "autumn" very often in normal communication, someone might be led to believe that it had a special unusual scientific meaning.

The title text makes fun of the transatlantic difference in terms, as it claims one must reverse these two distinct season names. The term "autumn" is, in reality, the word overwhelmingly used in the UK for the season commonly (but not exclusively) referred to as "the fall" in the US, regardless of which of the calendar offsets is to be assumed, and the equinox is, accordingly, called the autumn equinox. "Fall" is rarely used 'natively' in the UK (although it will usually be understood), with the main exception being that it handily allows for the mnemonic of "spring forward, fall back", which uses wordplay to refer to how and roughly when British Summer Time (UTC+1) takes over from the default Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0).


[A monthly time track, showing the stretch of August, September, and October. The date of September 6th is marked now, with September 23rd marked as the Fall Equinox. September 1st is marked as the Meteorological End of Summer. Underneath the track there are labels for the seasons - Summer ends at September 1st, which is then labelled as Autumn until the Equinox wherein a separate season labelled as Fall is from the Equinox onwards.]
[Caption below the panel:]
Now that summer is over, the first day of fall is just a few weeks away!

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Who calls it the "fall equinox"? I thought the equinoctes were always described as "vernal" and "autumnal"? Mathmannix (talk) 19:11, 6 September 2023 (UTC)
Americans sometimes call it the fall equinox casually 19:56, 6 September 2023 (UTC)
In American English, "fall equinox" contrasts with "spring equinox" in the same way "summer solstice" contrasts with "winter solstice." The Latinate names are "autumnal equinox," "hibernal solstice," "vernal equinox," and "estival solstice," but since British English lost its non-Latinate name for the fall, the term "autumnal equinox" has to do double duty. The Latinate names are rather more common for equinoxes than solstices, but all four names are used. Also used are "September equinox," "December solstice," "March equinox," and "June solstice" if the context doesn't let you commit to one hemisphere or the other. 09:20, 7 September 2023 (UTC)
Most people? It is the equinox that falls in Fall. So the Fall equinox. Like the summer and winter solstice. Which also invalidates anybody claiming the summer soltice being the last day of spring. 16:08, 7 September 2023 (UTC)
WRT the alt text, perhaps this is a woosh moment, but "fall" isn't at all common in British parlance. We know it, but only as an Americanism of what we would just call "Autumn". 20:55, 6 September 2023 (UTC)
That's the joke. Just as Americans don't typically use "autumn", the UK does not use "fall". 21:45, 6 September 2023 (UTC)

What "type of five-season system shown in the comic"? The comic doesn't show five-season system. It shows EIGHT season system. We just only know names of five of them. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:17, 6 September 2023 (UTC)

That's the point, though: if the English language had an 8-season system, we'd have 8 names for them — but we only have 5. 07:05, 7 September 2023 (UTC)
Canada has 11 seasons with names for all of them: https://twitter.com/mathewi/status/1234532208423178241?lang=en (one of many variations on this meme, but rings very true if you live up north)
Actually, I find there's no indication that Randall has any similar ideas about the other 3 seasons. It's quite possibly and even likely that he sees no such vagueness of feeling about Summer & Winter, and not really Spring either. Also, Autumn has "Fall" as a synonym for Randall to split up, I know no such synonyms for the other 3 seasons. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:31, 10 September 2023 (UTC)

I think the statement "nowhere uses the type of five-season system shown in the comic." deserves an actual "citation needed" and not the joke one. Personally I didn't know about the six season thing in South Asia so it's not obvious that noone uses 5 seasons. Bischoff (talk) 11:07, 7 September 2023 (UTC)

I definitely agree. I was going to comment the same thing. 12:51, 7 September 2023 (UTC)
The Hebrew bible, in the Book of Genesis (Gen. 8:22), establishes six seasons (consistent with the west-Asian origin story of the progenitors of the Hebrew race) of Sowing, Reaping, Cold, Heat, Summer, and Winter. (talk) 03:52, 8 September 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Not really, I disagree, it's the typical "Can't prove a negative", what website/source is going to SAY "Nobody has 5 seasons"? It's something we just generally feel, even know, but I think it can only be DISproven, if someone finds a place that recognizes 5. It seems wrong to put "Citation Needed" for something which cannot be cited. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:31, 10 September 2023 (UTC)
Also, it's not "nowhere uses a five-season system", it's "nowhere uses the type of five-season system shown in the comic". I can easily imagine there is some places with five seasons, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be like that. -- 07:44, 12 September 2023 (UTC)

Can you believe it guys? First day of fall. Just a week away! First day of fall is in a week! Woohoo! I am so happy about this information. first day of fall, just a week away. Oh wow. Can you believe it? First day of fall! Just in a week! It got here so fast. First day of fall! 11:51, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Bumpf

I'm surprised he didn't find a way to work in the "unofficial" seasons, which are based on holidays that straddle the periods of summer weather. In the US, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, and Labor Day the unofficial end. They also coincide approximately with school summer breaks. Barmar (talk) 14:20, 7 September 2023 (UTC)

I just saw this comment, but that's exactly what I just added. :-) 23:40, 7 September 2023 (UTC)

I'm just unreasonably pleased that someone of note is acknowledging that calling the equinoxes & solstices, the "start" of a season, is absurd from the standpoint of tracking the weather: The shortest day, occurring near the meteorological middle of winter even in the most delayed climates, is obviously not the "start" of winter, & likewise the weather shifts noticeably about a month before the vernal & autumnal equinoxes. The seemingly obligatory "first day of summer!" proclamations in the middle of June feel really disingenuous & annoying when much of the continent has already been seeing 90°F\32°C for weeks. By what means can we collectively petition to abolish this obviously incorrect practice & start properly referring to the solstices & equinoxes as the middle of their respective seasons, instead? ProphetZarquon (talk) 16:30, 7 September 2023 (UTC)

It's actually a classic trick question, "Do days get longer or shorter in winter?". Days are shorter (than in summer), yes, but given that winter quite famously can be said to start on the shortest day, means that the answer is actually "longer", as the season heads towards the equinox and nights shorten from their maximum. (Either that or "neither, they're all 24 hours long" ...well, give or take the occasional leap second...)
So, anyway, it's astronomical seasons. 17:06, 7 September 2023 (UTC)
As a science teacher, I feel this a lot. (talk) 03:52, 8 September 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
By the way, if you take a look at the difference between Gregorian and Julian calendars, the Gregorian calendar was designed to correct for the 0.25% imprecision of the Julian calendar, so Julian dates for the equinoxes and solstices are actually ~16 days later than Gregorian dates for the same. Hence why Orthodox religions observe different dates for Xmas and Easter. (Interestingly, the Jewish calendar was codified before the Gregorian calendar was proposed, and the Jewish calendar tries to unite lunar and solar cycles [according to the 19-year Metonic cycle], so Jewish dates having to do with the solar revolution are only accurate in the Julian calendar.) (talk) 04:00, 8 September 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Speaking from the UK, starting summer in June seems entirely reasonable. What's idiotic is assuming that all the seasons are the same length - typically we have about three weeks of summer, a week and a half of winter, and the rest is spring/autumn. 09:21, 11 September 2023 (UTC)

Interestingly, assuming that the September 1st is marked as the midnight (00:00hrs, otherwise identifiable as 24:00hrs of August 31st), the tick-marks being day-boundaries and the whole-bar mark being month-boundary, the position marked for the equinox appears to be very close to the time of 06:50 on the 23rd, which makes it agree with the UTC/UT1 timing for this year's actual moment of south-bound equinox. Translated to Randall's presumed TZ at the time (-5, and +1 back for DST) surely it should happen to him significantly closer to the midnight marker, however. Not sure if he's being very clever or slightly sloppy. 05:10, 8 September 2023 (UTC)

Regarding a five-season system, I immediately come to think of the situation in Sweden. There are the four standard seasons, but it's often mentioned that the Sami people has eight seasons. The only one of the four "intermediate" seasons used but the majority people (to some extent), is the "spring-winter". So, in the Swedish language it might be possible to talk about five seasons. :) Fomalhaut (talk) 14:24, 11 September 2023 (UTC)

Actually, I (Mid-Atlantic US resident) only observe a three-season calendar: "Live like a normal Human being, because it is daylight until 20:00 or later", "Huddle at home like a hermit, because it is pitch-black before 18:00", and the season in-between. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 16:27, 17 September 2023 (UTC)

I think he is also making fun of the UK vs BRITISH. He talks about this being a US/UK thing, meaning that the autumn 1st then fall seasons next are a US and UK thing. Then he talks about the British reversing the order, implying that British are completely different from UK just as he is implying that Fall and Autumn are completely different things. -- Madmanpierre (talk) 15:08, 7 October 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Well, that's already said, I think. (Although "UK vs BRITISH"... you mean like how within this set of differences? Not sure why you're invoking that.) 16:24, 7 October 2023 (UTC)