Word of the Week: Autumn

Word of the week

With Saturday (September 22nd) signifying the first day of Autumn, it only seemed right for this weeks word of the week to be Autumn. With Autumn comes the general sadness that winter is on it’s way, as the temperatures drop and the nights draw in. However, it also means that Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and my birthday are coming up, so I’m actually a big fan of the season that I think looks really pretty, as the leaves change colour!

I don’t really think that I need to tell you that Autumn is a noun, meaning “the season between summer and winter”, because that’s pretty obvious. But, what are the origins of the word?

Originally, the season was known as “Harvest”, and remained with that name until around the 16th Century, meaning the months between August and November. Harvest obviously relates to the picking of crops, presumably in preparation for winter.

The word “autumn” actually derives from the French word Automne.

“Being in the autumn of one’s life” generally relates to later life, metaphorically comparing the lifespan of a person to the life cycle of plants. In the Spring, we plant the seeds which represents the small child, in the summer, the seed begins into a beautiful plant, symbolising youth and through working life, whilst in the autumn the plant is at its best, and is ready to be picked.

In poetry, autumn is often used to symbolise the idea of melancholy, as summer is often associated with optimism and happiness and autumn of course sees the end of the opportunity that summer allegedly brings.

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Word of the Week: Shuck

Word of the week
Shuck probably seems like a weird word to have as my first Word of the Week, but it’s a word that I’ve come across a few times over the past couple of days, in several American-written novels, and it’s a word that has intrigued both myself and my other half, because it’s not a word that either of us had come across, in the context that it was used, or even the spelling.

In Cassandra Clare’s City of Lost Souls, the word is used in three different variations:

“He was shucking off his coat and hanging it on a hook on the wall”
“…was about to shuck off his jacket when there was the sound of a stifled chuckle.”
“…she shucked off her jeans and cami and slipped the dress over her head.”

I don’t think that I have ever encountered the word shuck before.

Then, in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I came across a very different use of the word:

“Mother is on the back porch with Pascagoula and Jameso while they shuck oysters.”

On encountering the word again, I decided to look it up, and this is basically what I found out:

1. To remove the shucks (outer covering) from maize or shellfish: shuck and drain the oysters.

The definition certainly helps to explain what Stockett means, in The Help, and is starts to give an idea regarding what Clare is saying.

2. Informal. a person or thing regarded as worthless or contemptible: he said the idea was a shuck.

This definition didn’t really fit in with the context either.

3. exlaim. (shucks) Informal, chiefly North American used to express surprise, regret, irritation, or, in response to praise, self-deprecation: “Thank you for getting it.” “Oh, shucks, it was nothing.”

Whilst this one also didn’t match what I was looking for, it did make me realise that I have encountered a variant of the word before. Nevertheless, the next definitions explained exactly what I was looking for:

4. Informal. Take off (a garment): she shucked off her nightdress. 5. Informal. Abandon; get rid of: the regimes ability to shuck off it’s totalitarian characteristics.

Personally, I don’t think that “shuck” is the word that I would use, especially in the context that Clare used it in all of the above occurences, it always feels that it should be spelt “shook”, but even then it doesn’t feel like the word that I personally would have chosen. I think “shrugged” or “removed” feel more appropriate in these cases.

However, it doesn’t entirely fit into the context featured in City of Lost Souls. Although the knowledge that the word is “chiefly North American” does explain to me why I had no recollection of encountering the word before.