Some people say it’s the “fall” season.
Other people say “nonono … it’s ‘autumn.'”
It’s like the difference between “chicken” vs. “poultry.”
Besides the obvious question of “who the heck cares?”, it’s always made me curious. Why on earth do we have multiple words for everything? It’s not even like they’re nuanced words with slightly different meanings.
Chicken is the exact same freakin’ thing as poultry.
Fall IS autumn.
So what accounts for it, then?
Over this past summer, I took Introduction to Anglo-Saxon for my master’s degree program. It was a tough course, but it was really cool. Old English is the root of our modern English, and it was fascinating to see how it has evolved over the years.
But what really caught my attention and stuck with me wasn’t the language itself. It was the history related to it.
At a certain point, people in England were conquered by people from France and so all the fancy people in the king’s court and stuff started talking French (or Old French, at least). The common peeps? They still spoke Old English.
Later on, the king and folks in court started using English again (1417 A.D., to be precise).
But some of those French words survived.
Simple words from the Old-English-speaking common folk – words like “fall” and “chicken” stuck around.
So did fancier words from Old French … words like “autumn” and “poultry.”
And that’s why we’ve got two words for a lot of things.
That little tidbit of neat history stuck with me and actually helped put the course in perspective. All because our professor took two things – language and history – and showed how they relate.
That’s actually how we learn everything ever: we take something new and relate it to something we already know.
Nigel: “Baseball? What’s that?”
Rupert: “Well old chap, it’s like jolly cricket but American.”
Point is, you learn new things by connecting them to old things. The more connections you can make the more you’ll remember.
A great teacher can do that for you. Other times, you’ll have to do it for yourself.
But fear not!
In next month’s Study Penguin Newsletter, I’ll be giving you a few strategies to help you do just that.
Check it out: http://studypenguin.com/newsletter