Would you like to go for some foliambulation? It’s just so pretty among the trees right now.
You know what foliambulation is, right? You’re familiar with perambulation, which is going for a walk, and with ambulant, which means walking. You may also be put in mind of amble, which means ‘stroll’ and also comes from the same Latin root: ambulo, ‘I walk’. And you’re familiar with folio and exfoliate and especially foliage – which, by the way, used to be foilage, as we got it from the French word now written as feuillage, which, however, came from folium, and when there was a rage for showing English’s vaunted Latin roots, foilage was ‘corrected’ to foliage. So you may well have twigged what foliambulation means at first sight.
But we’re not here to leaf through the lexicon. We’re here to lexicalize through the leaves! Specifically, we’re here to go for a walk among the lovely fall leaves. We’re here to foliambulate. And while there’s nothing about foliambulate that requires the patent presence of anthocyanins (i.e., it doesn’t mean the leaves have to have turned yellow, orange, and red), and while I for one adore strolling through lush green forests, there really is a special something in wandering in the blood-coloured leaf-slaughter of autumn.
What, have I taken leave of my senses? No, I’ve taken my senses to leaves. And while we can all say we’d like to “walk in the fall foliage,” isn’t there an exquisite folly in foliambulation?
Nothing forces nature to be so colourful, after all. I grew up in Alberta, and while fall there is not unpretty, the fact is that the leaves all turn yellow in one week and blow off the trees in the next. When I was heading into my first fall in New England at Tufts University, my parents (born and raised in western New York State) would ask every week over the phone if the leaves had turned, and every week I would say, no, why do you keep asking? And then the leaves turned.
Look, if you’ve only ever lived where the leaves just go yellow and blow away, moving to Massachusetts is like knowing only the piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition and being taken to a concert of the symphony version. Both are nice, but wow, what a difference.
And likewise, there’s nothing wrong with saying “walking in the fall foliage” or “going for a stroll among the leaves.” But if we can have another, fancier word for occasional use, why not have one? It’s an easy word for figure out and a fun one to say. Yes, this is surely the first place you’ll ever see foliambulation, because it’s a new old word: improbably, no one else seems to have used it; I glued the two bits together myself. But if you don’t want it, well, just walk another way. It’s a big, beautiful world out there.