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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Proper Respect

The great majority of grammar textbooks and websites indicate that the seasons – Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter – are generally not to be capitalized. The reason given is that they are common nouns instead of proper nouns. Proper nouns are defined by Merriam-Webster as: “a noun that designates a particular being or thing which does not take a limiting modifier.”

The names of days and months are considered proper nouns and, hence, are supposed to be capitalized. But for some cockamamie reason, some deep-in-the-suds grammatician somewhere along the road of words declared that the seasons were not proper but common nouns, hence, not to be capitalized. Do they not fit the above definition?

Days (24 hours) and months (four weeks) both refer to specific time periods. Each one of the seasons refers to a very specific time period determined as precisely by astronomical calculations as are days and months. When browsing the internet for an explanation of why the days and months are considered proper nouns and the seasons are not, one find’s little-to-no satisfaction.

One common attempted justification is that the days of the week are named after Greek gods, those, of course, being proper nouns. But that is the case with only five of the days. Sunday comes from day of the sun (Latin and Greek), or Sunday. Monday comes from day of the moon (Latin and Greek), or Monday. The same goes for the months, where only seven of them were named after gods. The other five were all named from common noun Latin words: April from aperire (to open); September from septem (seven); October from octo (eight); November from novem (nine); December from decem (ten).

So the grammatical logic here is . . . well, illogical. If days, months, and seasons all delineate very specific time periods, it makes sense that they all be treated with equal respect. To call the seasons common vs proper nouns is to demean their character and importance. Spring exhibits a most proper grace as it blesses the earth with budding splendor that deserve accolades. Summer erases memory of snow and ice with wonderfully proper doses of sunshine and lazy days that merit commendation. Fall blasts the earth with vibrant colors that extol properness and cry for recognition. Winter’s beautification of the land and encouragement of cozy fireside days begs affirmation. Logic or illogic be damned. It’s time to give the seasons their due.

Language and rules of grammar change with the seasons of time. Many of the rules I was taught in high school in the 60s have been altered or jettisoned. The error of starting a sentence with a conjunction, the sin of ending a sentence with a preposition, the horror of using whose to refer to a thing or abstract notion rather than a person, and the curse of using fragmented sentences are all examples of “rules” that have become obsolete. Reading almost any modern novel will reveal that these old no-nos are now used with affable immunity.

Although in the minority, I am not alone in promoting the capitalization of the seasons. It’s a tough battle in the face of the plentitude of Pharisaical grammaticians who seem to hold inviolable what they consider to be divine law. But I will praise Winter for her enlivening snowflakery. I will glorify Spring in all her glory. I will applaud Summer as I float in Ken Lake. I will celebrate Fall as my camera captures her multicolored wonders.

Another day we might discuss the Oxford comma.

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