Indian summer

Natalie Maynor maynor at RA.MSSTATE.EDU
Thu Sep 30 15:56:18 UTC 1999

> 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?

I don't remember ever having considered the first frost a requirement.

>  When frost comes late in the fall
> there would not be a warmer period following.

Our first frost is usually sometime in early November.  After that, the
weather fluctuates enormously for the next several months.  Thanksgiving
in Mississippi might be 10 degrees or 90 degrees.  (Both of those would
be extreme.  Quite often, however, Thanksgiving is 30 degrees or 80
degrees.)  So yes, we definitely have warmer periods after the first
frost.  I don't think people are likely to use the term "Indian summer"
that late in the year, though.

> I think we like these expressions and apply them when we can,
> reinterpreting them when we can't.

One thing that has occurred to me in the reinterpretations I've heard
lately is the possibility that people have heard "Indian summer" used
with a connotation of "beautiful weather" -- the kind we often have
in October (which always reminds me of a poem named "October's Bright
Blue Weather" that I had to memorize in the fourth grade).  Since most
people don't think of summer weather here as "beautiful," they've
assumed that "Indian summer" means the first of our October-type
weather.  Interestingly, although this reinterpretation gives the
term an opposite meaning (arrival of cool weather instead of a return
of warm weather), the weather the term is being applied to in the
reinterpretation is probably very much like the weather the term is
being applied to when used in its original meaning in northern climes.
Our fall weather is similar to summer weather in places like New England.
   --Natalie Maynor (maynor at

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