Indian Summer?

After such a wet and relatively cool summer so far in the UK, we are wondering if we might have an Indian Summer with weather becoming more mild and sunny in the autumn?  This in turn led us to wondering where the term ‘Indian summer’ comes from and luckily the Oxford English Dictionary Online has the answer.

The OED’s definition is:

“A period of calm, dry, mild weather, with hazy atmosphere, occurring in the late autumn in the Northern United States”

and it provides a little more explanation

“The name is generally attributed to the fact that the region in which the meteorological conditions in question were originally noticed was still occupied by the Indians; but other more specific explanations have been essayed. In its origin it appears to have had nothing to do with the glowing autumnal tints of the foliage, with which it is sometimes associated. The actual time of its occurrence and the character of the weather appear also to vary for different regions”

OED Online, [Accessed 14/08/2008]

Its first recorded use was in 1778 by ‘J. H. St. John D Creveoeur’.  If you want to find out more about him then you can go to Internet Archive and download Saint John de Crèvecur, sa vie et ses ouvrages (1735-1813) avec les portraits de Crèvecur et de la comtesse d’Houdetot, gravés d’après des miniatures du temps. (It is in French and for non-commercial use only).  The OED has numerous quotations demonstrating the variations in its use since this date, with authors including Longfellow, De Quincy and Vita Sackville-West.

To find out more about ‘Indian summer’ or any other word (and you are a Loughborough registered student or member of staff) you can link to the OED either directly (using the links above) or via Metalib.  If you are on-campus, you can search it directly.  If you are off-campus, you will need your Athens username and password to access it.

Let’s hope that an Indian summer does come along!!


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