Sunday, November 8, 2015

Indian summer

Today is the 8th of November. It's autumn and yet the weather is mild: it's sunny and warm (about 24º C), there's no wind... It's not the weather you might expect in autumn. That's what is called an Indian Summer, a term that, originated in the USA and Canada, is becoming more widely used in the UK, where this spell of good weather in the middle of the autumn is known as "All Hallows summer" or "St. Martin's summer" (In Spain we say "Veranillo de San Martín") because it hapens around the Day of St Martin, that is, the 11th of November. So, if it's got a name, it's not so strange to get warm days in November, is it?
Indian summer

But where does this expression come from? It was first used in North America around the 1770s, but the origin is not certain. Some say that it was the Indians that pointed it out to the European settlers. Others say that during this spell of good weather the Indians renewed their attacks on the settlers. Whatever its origin, the expression is here to stay and it's already in use in other English speaking countries apart from North America.

Indian summer is the title of a song, a film, a festival,..

By extension, it also means a pleasant period of someone's life, especially when they are older:
  • After marrying his new wife at the age of 59, he entered into the Indian summer of his life. 
  • She is in the Indian summer of her career.

Apart from Indian summer, there are other proverbs and idioms related to the seasons and the weather. Here are a few:
  • One swallow does not make a summer, meaning that because one good thing has happened does not mean that others will follow:  Her latest book was a success, but a swallow does not make a summer. She still has to prove that she is a good writer.
  • To buy straw hats in winter is mainly used in the stock market and it means to buy when demand and prices are low in order to sell when the prices are higher so as to make big profit.
  • In the dead of winter means in the middle of winter, when it is the coldest:  In the dead of winter, just when it was colder, she came out wearing just a skimpy dress and no coat on. 
  • No spring chicken is used to refer to people who are no longer young: Stop doing that. You're no spring chicken!
  • To be full of the joys of spring is to be very happy. Look at him, he's full of the joys of spring.
  • Autumn years are the later years of a person, especially after retirement: In the autumn years of his life he took up painting.
  • Make hay while the sun shines means to make the most of opportunities when they come: Now that the children are at school, I'll set to work in my book. I'll make hay while the sun shines.
  • To be / feel under the weather is not to feel well: I won't go out today. I'm feeling a bit under the weather.
  • It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. This proverb means that even the worst events can be beneficial for someone: After the fire in the building, many workers were given jobs to repair it. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
  • Come rain or come shine / rain or shine: no matter what the weather is like, in any case: After a long week working in the office we'll go out at the weekend come rain or come shine.
The following presentation can help you remember these idioms. Try to complete them and then remember their meaning. 

In this song by Stereophonics you can hear the expression Indian summer:

In this other song, Frank Sinatra says that he is going to love his sweetheart come rain or come shine; that is, in any case, no matter what life brings about. Enjoy it!

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