Friday, November 07, 2003

The Return of Autumn

The rains of the past two days have washed away the last remnants of our Indian summer. Many more leaves are on the ground and cold weather is back. A few days ago, Languagehat mentioned that he had only recently learned that a true Indian summer can only come after a heavy frost. My father-in-law told me the same thing when he was visiting a few weeks ago, which surprised me. Back in Louisiana, Indian summer was the return of warmth after a cold snap, but it wouldn't require a frost. (We often didn't get our first frost until well into winter.) My in-laws are from New England, however, where the cold can come early, which might explain the frost requirement. Languagehat pointed to a NOAA article about the origin of the term Indian summer and tracing the early citations to late 1770s Colonial/Revolutionary North America. This led me to wonder what similar early autumn warming trends were called elsewhere. The Glossary of Meteorology noted that in Europe the terms old wives' summer, St. Martin's summer, St. Luke's summer, and All-hallown summer were used. Some more digging found that Middle and Eastern Europe seemed to prefer variations of old wives' summer or old woman's summer
  • Altweigersommer (German)
  • Altweiwersummer (Pennsylvania German)
  • oudewijvenzomer (Dutch)
  • vénasszonyok nyara (Hungarian)
  • babie lato (Polish)
  • babí léto (Czech)
  • бабье лето (Russian)
Other nations named it after the saint's feast day that typically ushered in an Indian summer:
  • veranillo de San Martí­n (Spanish)
  • estate di San Martino (Italian)
  • estiuet de San Martí­ (Catalan)
  • l'été de la St-Martin (French)
  • l'été de la St-Dénis (French)
  • l'été de la St-Gérard (French)
  • brittsommar (Swedish)
Interestingly, in South America it is termed veranito de San Juan (little summer of St. John, in Argentine Spanish) because the seasons come at a different time of year than in the Northern Hemisphere. The saint associated with an Indian summer in France depends upon which saint's day is nearest to the event, although l'été de la St-Martin seems to be the most common/generic. "After summer" is used in Frisian neisimmer and in Flemish nazomer to describe Indian summer, while Québécois uses the same term as English, just in French: l'été des Indiens (although the less PC l'été des Sauvages is also found in some references). I asked a Brazilian colleague what the term was in Portuguese and she insisted that it is summer year round in Brazil thus no need for such a term. A few other terms that turned while digging online:
  • Schmokdaage or Schmokwedder (Pennsylvania German) "smoke days" or "smoke weather"
  • 秋老虎 qiu1lao3hu3 (Chinese) "tiger autumn"
  • 小春 koharu (Japanese) "little spring"
  • lé p'tit été (Jèrriaise/Jersey Norman French) "little summer"
  • vjeshtës më kohë të verë (Albanian) "autumn at the same time as summer"
  • druhá mí­za
  • (Czech) "another sap" or idiomatically "a new lease on life"
  • золотая осень (Russian) "gold autumn"
  • γαϊδουροκαλόκαιρο (Greek) Καλόκαιρο means summer, but I'm not sure what γαϊδουρο means; it's not in my dictionary, nor any any glossaries/dictionaries I can find online. [Update (Nov. 30, 2020): It's "donkey summer." Not sure why I had trouble figuring that out 17 years ago.]
  • pastırma yazı (Turkish) "pastrami summer" There must be some other translation for pastırma, but I only have a small Turkish dictionary.

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