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India and various types of Indians

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Bondee
750316.  Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:16 pm Reply with quote

May I veer slightly off-topic and mention the "Indian summer"?

We were talking about them at work today. Our first thought was that it has something to do with the good weather that one would find on the Indian sub-continent, but a bit of Googling revealed that it's more likely to be related to native Americans.

From Wikipedia...
Quote:
The etymology of 'Indian summer'

The expression '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. There are several theories as to its etymology:

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 army officers leading retaliation expeditions against Indians for raids on settlers in Ohio and Indiana in 1790, and Pennsylvania in 1794.

It may be so named because this was the traditional period during which early North American Indians harvested their crops of squash and corn.

In the same way that Indian giver was coined for people who take back presents they have bestowed, the phrase Indian summer may simply have been a way of saying "false summer". (However some traditions say "indian giver" refers to the practice of giving gifts at the end of pow wow to honor and support the receiver in living a good life. If the recipient fails to do so, the giver may take back the gift.)


Can anyone shed any more light on the subject and give us a definitive answer?

 
suze
750322.  Fri Oct 08, 2010 5:02 pm Reply with quote

That the "Indians" here are indigenous persons of America rather than persons from South Asia is universally accepted.

As noted above, the first citation is from as long ago as 1782 (not 1778) when a French settler in New York wrote:

"Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer." (St John, J Hector (1782). Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of eighteenth-century America, Davies and Davis, London.)

This implies two things. First, that the term was already well known in the US, and second, that an Indian summer proper can only happen after the first frost.

Incidentally, only in the later part of the twentieth century did the usage become common in Britain. Before then, British people spoke of a "St Martin's Summer" - the Feast of St Martin falls on 11 November.

As for the precise origin of the phrase, we'll never know. The posted text hints at a couple of common theories, and there are others. Note also that summer actually does start and end a few weeks later in the temperate parts of North America than it does in Britain.

 
nitwit02
750349.  Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:31 pm Reply with quote

Most unusually, we have been getting around 20 C in the last week or two ....

 
Bondee
750840.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:37 am Reply with quote

Thanks suze.

 
Spud McLaren
750862.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:24 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
"Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer This implies two things. First, that the term was already well known in the US, and second, that an Indian summer proper can only happen after the first frost. "
(bold font mine)

Actually, suze, I read that it as referring to the severe frost rather than to the voluminous coat of snow. If that's right, the warm spell needn't be after the first frost.

 
Ion Zone
750880.  Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:18 pm Reply with quote

The American Indians survived the last iceage though skill, though I don't remember anything else (something about moving into the mountains).

 
Woodsman
754989.  Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:46 pm Reply with quote

In the region of northern New England we would wait for the first hard frost, then experience a slight warming, known as Indian Summer. This would defer the coming of light snow to late October.

Historically, the first hard frost would come earlier or later in September, generally linked to the full moon occurrence in the month. This year, a light frost did not occur until 6 October, and a hard frost until the middle of the month near the full moon. Last year, I last mowed the lawns in November.

Light snow would come by late October or mid November. Now it struggles to reach us by late November.

The taking of pumpkins and planting of bulbs has thus been delayed, and the Indians know that strange things are happening.

 

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