Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Willow's Weekly Word

Midday, A. A. Plastov, 1961

We are experiencing a few days of Indian Summer here in the Mid
West. Over the weekend the temps were in the mid eighties. The term
Indian summer has been used for more than two centuries. The earliest
known use was by French American writer St. John de Crevecoeur in
rural New York in 1778. Here are several theories as to its etymology,
I found at Wikipedia:

1. In The Americans, The Colonial Experience, Daniel J. Boorstin
....speculates that the term originated from raids on European
....colonies by Indian war parties; these raids usually ended in
....autumn, hence the extension to summer-like weather in the
....fall as an Indian summer. Two of the three other known uses
....of the term in the 18th century are from accounts kept by two officers leading retaliation expeditions against Indians for
....raids on settlers in Ohio and Indiana in 1790, and Pennsylvania 1794.

2. It may be so named because this was the traditional period
....during which early Native Americans harvested their crops.

3. It may be of Asian Indian origin rather than North American
....Indian. H. E. Ware, an English writer, noted that ships
....traversing the Indian Ocean loaded their cargo most often
....during the Indian summer, or fair weather season. Several
....ships actually had an "I.S." on their hull at the load level
....thought safe during Indian summer. However this usage
....refers to the actual high summer in India, not to a late warm

4. Given that Native Americans were frequently perceived as
....deceitful and treacherous by the European settlers, the
....phrase might be of the family of terms such as "Indian giver"
....based on this supposed duplicity. Therefore, "Indian summer"
....would be a 'deceitful, treacherous' imitation of summer, which
....appears to be a return of warmer weather but is really a short
....lived 'lie' giving way to the 'truth' of cold, unpleasant conditions.

So, there you have it my bloggy friends! And as you know, I have
been in my Russian mode since refreshing it last week with Onegin.
The above painting reminds me so much of the film Burnt by the Sun,
a Russian film superbly directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, who also does a
marvelous job starring as Col. Sergei Petrovich Kotov. This is another
typical Russian tale of beauty and irony. Set in 1936, the Colonel's
idyllic family home is infiltrated by an agent of the government
police, who just happens to be his wife's former lover. Filmed in the
luscious Russian country side, it is very emotionally charged and well
deserves the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film it
received in 1995.


  1. Fascinating ... those high temps you had are now passing through my neck of the woods ... by weekend it will be proper fall temps here, I hope


  2. It's been chilly in eastern Washington, but Joe tells me NC was 80 yesterday afternoon and cool evenings. I'd say Indian Summer...what fascinating descriptions of its origins. Some I never heard before. Love that image!

  3. Trust you to know this movie, Willow. It is right up there with my favourite foreign films--The idyllic pastoral existence juxtaposed with the grim reality of Russian politics. It truly was deserving of that Best Picture Oscar.
    There's a Czech film you may also like, entitled Zelary. (there's an accent, but my computer won't allow for it.)

    I am happy to have "Indian Summer's" definitions secured under my belt, thanks to you.


  4. Zelary is now on my "must see" list, Kat. You have great taste in films and I'm always happy to see your suggestions. Thanks bloggy! :^)

  5. Willow, Thank you for the definitions! It is supposed to reach 80 degrees here in the west and the neighborhood pool is heated to 86...I'm going in and probably for the last time this year.
    Mary Ann

  6. Great to know the definitions, just wish we could magic one up here in damp wet England........
    Give me that motorbike I'm coming over there!!!!!!!!

  7. Queenie, hop aboard and buzz on over here! It's sunny and warm!!

  8. Yes, it is Indian Summer for sure here in Ohio. Jeans in the morning, shorts in the afternoon! :) But I love the windows open and the breeze!

  9. Well, I was about to say that we are experiencing indian summer as well, but the truth is that really summer has not yet ended... true autumn weather will be here soon.

  10. It just rains here in Ireland. No, we did have some sunshine recently and the temperature was an astounding 68 degrees!! Phew, were we hot!!

    Lovely painting and I must see that film you talk about.

  11. I think that our days of "Indian Summer" have officially ended here in Oklahoma. Today we awakened to rain and considerably cooler temperatures--so cool, in fact, that it is actually jacket weather! Our leaves are just now beginning to turn color. They're pretty, but we never experience the colorful falls that I grew to know and love when I lived in Cincinnati and then later in northern Kentucky. I miss those autumn days in the southern mid-west.

  12. Lynette, send some of that cool autumn air this direction! It's 80 degrees here. I'm hot and actually thinking about turning on the AC!:P

  13. That Russian firl hits a little too close to home for me as I lost my one and only uncle in Stalin's purge of army officers to weaken any possible opposition to his anything but benevolent dictatorship.

  14. So many different versions of the meaning of the term...interesting.

    I do love this time of year... whatever the meaning.

  15. That was really interesting Willow. BTW, I love Indian Summers. That is the best part about the area I live in. Take Care my friend. Strider

  16. Whatever type of summer it is, I wish it was not so hot like ours that I never went to the pool because the water was tepid!

  17. I've often wondered where the term originated - fascinated that there are so many possibilities.

  18. The Onegin DVD arrived today. Thanks to you Willow and others for further suggestions. Zelary sounds interesting. Must look into it.Beautiful picture at the start of this post.

  19. We must do all things...
    Fffff !

  20. Interesting. It seems I'm always learning something new when I visit-- Love that.

  21. Once again you've used a piece of art as illustration of your point that makes me drool. The colors are so lush while the shadows are cool and evocative of a crisp Indian Summer day.

  22. I loved - or rather was deeply moved by Burnt with the Sun.
    a very powerful movie.
    I have yet to get to Russia.Poiland my nearest effort.
    Its beautifully warm here today in NY - but not India summer because we haven't had a frost yet.
    I think you have to have one of those?

  23. I've never thought about the meaning of Indian Summer! Perhaps it is because the first time I ever heard that phrase, during a bright autumn Indian Summer, I decided it had to do with the bright colors of Autumn - like the feathers, beads and deerskins of the Native Americans. Thank you for the wonderful explanations. I received your wonderful post card today! Thank you so much!

  24. How interesting, I never thought about the origin of Indian Summer before.

  25. Hello to everybody.

    I agree with the fourth definition because it is the reference I have heard more often. I was completely ignorant about the others.

    Willow, you have just taken me back to Havana, Cuba, 1996, a dark video room in a place called The Blue Ferret (El Huron Azul in Spanish) in the midst of an unforgettable hot summer (not Indian, mind!) and with a bunch of friends we all watched this fantastic Russian film. I highly recommend it, too.

    Greetings from London.

  26. HUM...another movie to add to the growing list:-)

  27. indian summer -- my favorite days of the year!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)