Indian summer

October 10, 2014 1:20 pm

indian summer

As after some unpleasant days here in Luxembourg weather is now getting better, we have chosen Indian summer as the IATE term of the week.

Glossary of Meteorology, published by the American Meteorological Society, defines Indian summer as ”a period, in mid- or late autumn, of abnormally warm weather, generally clear skies, sunny but hazy days, and cool nights.”

The term is first recorded in 1778, in Letters From an American Farmer written by a French-American soldier and writer J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur:

Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.

It is difficult to say when the term was coined since it looks like it was widespread by the time it was used in these series of letters. Naturally, since the origin is unclear, there are quite a few theories, most of them, unsurprisingly, involving Native Americans. For instance, some people say that it refers to the fact that during the unusually warm days in autumn, Native Americans used to hunt the wild animals as they believed that the mild weather encouraged the animals to come out and the haziness in the air gave an advantage to sneak up on them. Others speculate that it is connected with the fact that for similar reasons Native Americans used to resume their attacks on the settlers.

This warm spell in autumn is enjoyed not only in North America – in Europe we are just as privileged. Quite a few countries have adopted this term in their languages (e.g. été indien in French or verano indio in Spanish). There are other terms as well for the same concept. For example, it used to be called Saint Martin’s summer in the U.K before Indian summer was adopted. In some of the central/eastern European countries it is called Old Wives’ summer, whereas in my country (Lithuania) we call it bobų vasara. “Boba” is not the nicest word to refer to a woman, and the approximate translation would be “crone’s summer” or ”hag’s summer”. Now it is not easy to find a justification for this term. Even though the family life might get frustrating sometimes, I would like to think that eastern European wives did not use these nice and hazy autumn days to terrorise their husbands…Maybe it could be interpreted as a reference to a nice, ”sunny” period, kind of a ”second flowering” in a later phase of women’s life.

How do you call this weather phenomenon in your language? We would be interested to know!

indian summer IATE

We invite you to suggest the equivalent terms in the missing EU languages, or alternatives to the existing term in your language if you consider the proposed term inaccurate. Provide your answer with a reliable reference and an accurate definition and/or context if possible.

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A terminologist for the language in question will revise your answer and decide whether to validate them. Given the implications of the process, a delay is to be expected.

p.s. Indian summer tends to come in the mid October or the begining of November, so let’s have our fingers crossed!

By Julija Televičiūtė

Graduate from Vilnius University, English Philology (BA)

Translation trainee at Lithuanian Unit

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