Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today's OED Word: Indian Summer

I'm curious as to why the Oxford English Dictionary chose Indian Summer as today's Word of the Day.

Here's the definition given:

 orig. N. Amer.

 1. A period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy atmosphere, occurring in late autumn in the northern United States and Canada; a similar period of unseasonably warm autumnal weather elsewhere.

However, the weather of late has been neither calm nor dry, and warm and hazy are understatements. Nor is it late autumn -- summer is still in full swing for almost another full month.

Perhaps, the OED had in mind the second definition?

2. fig. A late period in the life of a person or in the existence of a nation, culture, etc., characterized by calm, happiness, or achievement.

Don't think I'll go there.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The hurrier I go . . .

Numa Pompilius, 2nd King of Rome, 715-673 B.C.

. . . the behinder I get!" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

I think I may finally have figured out why I always feel as though I'm two-steps behind in the tarantella of life.

It's all King Numa Pompilius's fault!

This second king of Rome -- after Romulus (of "and Remus" fame, suckled by a she-wolf and all) -- added two months, January and February to the calendar of the day, pushing August from the 6th month to the 8th month.

I, being born in August, should have been born in June. But, no -- I started out two months behind! No wonder I feel like I'm forever playing catch-up.

August, itself, seems to have been awarded the left-overs in terms of festivals and events. It is the National Month of Immunization Awareness, Psoriasis Awareness, Water Quality, Cataract Awareness, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness.

It is also, however,  National Goat Cheese Month and Happiness Happens Month, the latter brought to us by The Secret Society of Happy People.


King Numa seems like a fairly savvy ruler. If the Wikipedia entry is accurate, the Roman historian Plutarch recorded King Numa as being spiritually sophisticated: "He [Plutarch] says Numa "forbade the Romans to represent the deity in the form either of man or of beast. Nor was there among them formerly any image or statue of the Divine Being; during the first one hundred and seventy years they built temples, indeed, and other sacred domes, but placed in them no figure of any kind; persuaded that it is impious to represent things Divine by what is perishable, and that we can have no conception of God but by the understanding."

King Numa also established an understanding of boundaries and legal ownership that prevented many disputes. His reign was a peaceful one, and he apparently died of old age.

The image above is imagined, of course. It is fitting that this particular image was imagined by Gnaeus Calpernius Piso, during the reign of Caesar Augustus. 

King Numa had a good reason for shoving August from 6th place to 8th -- he was trying to align the solar and lunar calendars to make life easier for all.

He couldn't have known that 2600+ years later his mucking around with times and seasons would set me back from the get go. 

Ah, well. Don't worry. Be happy.

Maybe I need to take a lesson from the White Rabbit. 

Do you suppose the pokier I'd go, the further I'd get?