It's that time of year when the leaves start to change, the air is crisp and chilly, and you have a great urge to start stabbing those orange vegetables ever so diligently to create the perfect carved pumpkin or Jack O' Lantern. If you are like me this process brought up a question, why do we call these spooky pumpkin creations Jack O' Lanterns in the first place? According to several historians it dates back at least to the 17th century. The "jack" part most likely comes from that name being used as a generic term for a man. So an unknown man with a lantern becomes a "jack of the lantern," or "jack-o'-lantern," a nickname that became common for night watchmen.
It's not completely clear how the name switched from referring to a sentient being doing his job to a pumpkin with a face, but history offers a couple of options. First, that the nickname jack-o'-lantern was simply applied to these carved pumpkins (or whatever vegetable you had). Second, which it came from an Irish legend about "Stingy Jack," who lost a bet with the devil and ended up wandering Earth for eternity with a burning coal in a turnip to light his way.

Cody Griffith
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