What is winter?

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 19 05:46:14 UTC 2010

I am looking at the background of this, and there seems to be a clear pattern.

Travels in Africa, Performed by Silvester Meinrad Xavier Golberry, in
the Western Parts of that vast Continent, 2nd Ed., Vol. 1
William Mudford
Chapter VII: Of Zaara, or the Great Desert of Barbary, and of the
Moors Who Inhabit its Southern Region
p. 199
> The climate is very sultry though with occasional variations of atmosphere ; the year has only two seasons, the one commencing about the middle of April, the other about the middle of October, the first begins with violent tempests of wind, thunder, lightening, and deluge of rain, continuing for several days without intermission, and during which time the inhabitants confine themselves totally within their houses; the rest of the season, though hot and sometimes wet, is not, however, such as to impede the labours of agriculture. During the other part of the year, the heat is less intense, the air is pure and mild, and the weather serene.

An Easy Grammar of Geography;  intended as a companion and
introduction to "Geography on a Popular Plan, for Schools, and Young
Sir Richard Phillips
p. 16
[Also on p. 17 of the 1842 edition]
> Sweden and Swedish Lapland about with natural curiosities, and with singular and truly sublime scenery. It has only two seasons; nine months winter, and three months summer, during which, vegetation, is wonderfully rapid.

Geography, or, A Description of the World, in three parts
p. 231
Daniel Adams
Also 1830 edition, p. 232

> From some degrees to the south of Moscow, all northern Russia has only two seasons, the transition from winter to summer, and again from summer to winter

New Brunswick; with notes for immigrants
Abraham Gesner
p. 229
Also, in Simmonds' Colonial Magazine, Sept-Dec 1846
Gesner, Climate and Agriculture of New Brunswick, pp. 129-143
p. 132

> It has also been said that New Brunswick has only two seasons--the hot and the cold--and that the country has neither spring nor autumn.

Now, here's the problem--scores of books on "physical geography",
general and of specific regions, frequently used in the 1820s, 30s and
40s the expression "There are only two seasons" or X "has only two
seasons", but the complements were usually not particularly witty,
i.e., "winter and summer", "winter and spring", "cold and moderately
warm", "wet and dry", "dry and rainy", etc. This description applies
to such diverse regions as Southern Australia, subpolar regions of
Europe and North America, Northern Europe, Palestine, Equatorial
Africa, the Sierra, etc.

It would stand to reason that, if someone wanted to somewhat spice up
the droll account, he would add a witticism concerning one of the
seasons (usually not winter, one presumes).

Google suggests a completion--"there are two seasons--winter and
baseball". This one, of course, is of a much more recent vintage.


PS: Interestingly, the Mudford passage appears to have been
plagiarized in an 1820 book.

Popular Voyages and Travels, throughout the Continents and Islands of
Asia, Africa and America
By Mrs. Jamieson (late Miss Thurtle).
London, 1820

See the passage on Bornou, p. 81

Also note the "late Miss Thurtle", apropos the earlier discussion of "late".

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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