October Word of the Month

Look at that pumpkin! Must be fall for some of us. My north hemisphere bias shows when I talk about the seasons, but the fact is, everywhere around me is busting out in orange things and spooky dolls that talk when you move past them and the occasional pumpkin spice ALL THE THINGS. What better time to look at the term Jack o’Lantern.

100418 two jacks

Word Origin and History for jack o’lantern (Dictionary online)

Jack o’lantern, n.

also jack-o-lantern, 1660s, a local name for a will-o-the-wisp (Latin ignis fatuus), mainly attested in East Anglia but also in southwestern England. The extension to carved pumpkins is attested by 1834, American English.

Collins English Dictionary

A jack-o’-lantern is a lantern made from a hollow pumpkin that has been carved to look like a face.


Her children have lighted their jack-o’-lanterns, even though there are still two days before Halloween.

British, Noun

1. a lantern made from a hollowed pumpkin, which has holes cut in it to represent a human face

2. a will-o’-the-wisp or similar phenomenon

100418 night-dark-halloween-horror

American, noun

Word forms: plural ˈjack-ˌo’-lanterns

1. a shifting, elusive light seen over marshes at night; will-o’-the-wisp

2. a hollow pumpkin cut to look like a face and usually illuminated inside as by a candle, used as a decoration at Halloween

(Definition of jack-o’-lantern from the Collins English Dictionary )
100418 candles and more

All very interesting, but this fails to explain that, since pumpkins are found only in the New World, and jack-o-lanterns existed long before the settlement of the Colonies, what did they use instead? I’m glad you asked! Turnips were the lantern of choice, but several other vegetables were put into play. I would argue with the linked web page above on the use of potatoes, also a new world item. Maybe as they grew into favor but before the famine.

100418 tgurnip

Imagine if the pumpkin did not exist? Would you be tempted by a Turnip Spice Latte? Don’t reject it out of hand. These recipes show how close to other vegetables these roots are. It is tempting to get one and attempt to carve it. If I follow through, I will share a photo in subsequent posts.

1004108 printables

Be sure to use common sense when decorating for this holiday. Don’t make your neighbors question your well-being. Do look at these ghost photos to put you in the mood. Or if you are too easily spooked, watch these Family Friendly movies. I love Hocus Pocus! I also campaign to hand out non-candy and non-edible treats. These printables added to a paper straw are fun and not going to cause excess weight or cavities. Win!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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