The Best of Andy Rooney

Summer dies hard.

We try to keep it alive for just a little longer. Even though we're back at work and back at school, we try to hang on to a little of summer.

We keep doing a few of the things we did on vacation, just as though it wasn't really over. We do summer things on weekends.

We continue swimming, playing outdoor games, wearing summer clothes.

We wash the car and water the lawn, but it isn't the same.

The end is in sight.

When "Monday Night Football" starts, can fall be far behind? It has been chilly in the house on several mornings recently.

I can feel Fall coming.

Driving through the hills on Friday, I saw the first suggestion of some color other than green in the trees. The official end of summer comes Sept. 23, but we all know that the Tuesday after Labor Day is really the day summer ends. If the world were perfect, the seasons would be clearly defined and wouldn't blend gradually into another.

We wouldn't have any warm summer days in October and cold winter days in April. The problem is that the Earth got a bad deal when it was created billions of years ago. It wasn't put in orbit around the sun at the right angle; it's kind of cocked. The Earth's axis is tilted in relation to the sun, not facing it directly as it turns.

The only time the sun hits the Earth straight on at the equator is in March and September, as I understand it, which isn't very well.

I'm not complaining about Fall. It's just that, like most people, I'm a little sad to have summer gone so soon.

It isn't the weather I miss, but the casual attitude everyone has in July and August. People aren't pressing so hard to get ahead. During the summer months, we're content to tread water and stay almost where we are.

People are divided about what they call this time of year. Autumn is more official, but I seldom use it. It seems too much like a poet's word for me. It's often used as a descriptive word to create a visual image of the season. You envision colored leaves when you hear the word autumn. I shouldn't think they use the word much in California or Florida.

Don't ask me why, but "Fall" is the only name for a season that I capitalize. I know it's inconsistent, but it seems as though it needs a capital "F." Spring could use a capital, too, but I wouldn't think of capitalizing either summer or winter.

The best case that can be made for using autumn instead of Fall is that the word "Fall" has so many different and complex meanings in the English language.

I'd hate to be starting out trying to learn English. Using "Fall" as the name of the season is way down on the list of definitions in both my dictionaries. Fall means so many things. It isn't until definition No. 7 that it says, "the season between summer and winter." Other meanings for the word "Fall" include:

"To drop from a higher to a lower place."

"To take a proper place in a formation; i.e., when a soldier 'falls in'."

"When something comes or descends as 'the night falls'."

"To happen; i.e., 'Election Day falls on Tuesday'."

"To retreat or fall behind."

"A cascade of water coming down a bed of rocks."

To quarrel or fall out with."

"One who receives the blame, slang; i.e., 'the fall guy'."

"In wrestling, the throwing of an opponent on his back."

"In religion, the disobedience of Adam and Eve, The Fall."

I can't find an explanation for the use of the word "Fall" for the season. Presumably, it comes from what the leaves on the trees do. It's all enough to make a person switch to the word autumn. I don't care what anyone says about its beauty, though, Fall is a little sad.

A.E. Housman referred to it as "the beautiful and death-struck year."

(This a classic Andy Rooney column originally published Sept. 6, 1986.)

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