Indian summer

David Bergdahl bergdahl at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Sep 30 15:29:30 UTC 1999

Natalie Maynor wrote:

> I don't know the origin of the term, but I've noticed lately what
> seems to be a change underway in its usage.  I've always assumed that
> it meant a brief return of summer-like weather in the fall, after having
> had cooler weather.  Lately, however, I've heard it used to refer to
> the first cool days in fall.

Earlier, weathercasters would lecture us not to call it "Indian Summer"
until after the first frost, so there are two changes--one, a loosening of
the requirement from "first frost" to "cooler weather" and then to the
cooler weather itself; is this an example of a northern term being
reinterpreted for a southern clime?  When frost comes late in the fall
there would not be a warmer period following.

Is there a "January thaw" effect here?  In S. Ohio, where Decembers can be
mild and what little snow we have comes in March, a cold January can be
followed by bulb flowers appearing by the end of the month.  In upstate N.
Y. where snow comes in November and can still be found under bushes in May,
a warmer period in January is distinctive.  Yet weathercasters talk about
January thaws here. . . as if the ground had ever really been frozen solid!

I think we like these expressions and apply them when we can,
reinterpreting them when we can't.
David Bergdahl
tel:  (740) 593-2783
366 Ellis Hall     Ohio University  Athens, Ohio 45701-2979       fax:
(740) 593-2818

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