Thursday, September 11, 2014

Forgot to mention

But I'm publishing a review a day for the month of September to catch up with my Cannonball Reads 6 queue - I took a break there sometime around 20 books and the end of April. I've read about a million and a half fan-fics since, but have fallen waaay behind on my book reading, and even further behind on my review writing, so if you're interested, or if you just want to see what I have to say about a bunch of books and maybe you don't already follow me on Goodreads, c'mon over.

A review I wrote last week got a comment by the author on it the other day, so that was pretty exciting! Exciting because I actually liked the she was pleased by the review and I was pleased that she had seen it. It definitely could have gone the other way - I wrote a not-so-great review about another book a few days ago and it still doesn't feel great to me, because I hate to say mean things. I mostly just tried to play the "this really isn't my style" card, but... there were a lot of issues, and I mentioned that a few times. I wasn't actually mean about it, I know that, but it was hard not to follow the "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" rule.

For the most part though, I'm on a pretty good streak of books, and I think, if I survive September with any brain cells, and anybody's interested, I may link a few of my favorite fanfics and talk about them, come October. (Apparently we can review them for CBR, but since the point is to raise money for charity through Amazon, I'd feel badly since there aren't any Amazon-links to click in the AO3 fics. But this is my page, so I can do what I want. Also, at some point, I should probably recognize that I have been writing here for 9 years now, I think. It might be 10 - time to dig through the archives for that first mess of a post, and see the date again. But I know it was September, so I've got a blog-aversary coming up. And a sick-aversary come October. I'm just full of happy days [and made up words.])

So come check it out, if you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

This post may only be interesting to sociology/history/word nerds: I apologize in advance.

I somehow made it through our (granted unseasonably cool) summer months without putting in my air conditioner, and now that it's September, I want it with all of my soul.

Hi ho, internet friends ~ I don't know about you, but September has brought with it all that is muggy and unbearable up here in Massachusetts: We had some thunderstorms tonight that I was hoping would bring some relief, but no such luck. My asthma is so unsure of what to make of this, because some fall pollen is already out, so it's doing double duty battle, and there's some telltale rattling happening.

Calling the fall and the cooler weather, please, since I guess this doesn't even technically count as Indian Summer, as summer hasn't even officially ended yet. But September should be cooler than this.

So, I had this big check-in post planned, originally, with those first couple of paragraphs leading into some stuff that's going on here (besides the weather), when, in the course of typing out the words Indian Summer, it occurred to me that I have no idea how offensive a term that might be, and maybe I shouldn't be using it. And so, a whole new fascinating post (and at least three hours worth of rabbit-holing with Google) were born.

I had to start with the assumption that if it made it into the lexicon as something Indian, it probably didn't start out as a huge compliment, given both the word (Indian vs Native American) and the time period during which it would have emerged (which I was just guessing on, but I figured to be pre Industrial Revolution). Given those, I was not startled to find that there are many opposing viewpoints on its origin, its meaning, and its potential offensiveness.

After a (by no means exhaustive) search, it seems likely that it means "false summer", a kind of fake-out, reminiscent (to me) of Indian Giving, only this time, on behalf of Mother Nature. There are other explanations, sure - Fools summer, maybe; named after Indian Gods who sent the wind, perhaps; or (in a highly unlikely, but poetically, stunning turn of events) having to do with the actual Indian Ocean and its famed shipping, but most of the sources I found seemed to agree that there's a degree of dishonesty or falseness to it.  The majority of the other suggested definitions aren't particularly positive either - Indians burning things, or trickery of some sort - so they're not really helpful in terms of judging its offensiveness.

 Most interesting to me, however, was this blog post from the humorous news site, PTSOTL (whose author also writes for the Boston Globe and other major publications, and who did as good a job Googling as I did, since we came up with many similar sources {even if he is completely wrong about Tumblr, but that's another post}) which talks about what Indian Summer is referred to in other countries, and makes some pretty clear inferences as to its meaning: has another guess for the meaning. 
The most probable origin of the term, in our view, goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. "Indian summer," the settlers called it.
 Sneaky bastards, right?  Surprisingly, the American term for the weather singularity may not actually be the most offensive one. Check out a list of all the different terms for the return of unseasonably warm weather from throughout the world in the Wiki entry here, including more info on my Russian friend from above.

In many Slavic-speaking countries, the season is called Old Ladies' Summer...
Only thing worse than a back-stabbing heathen Indian, of course, is a woman, right? Women are the Indians of regular people. 
In Bulgaria, the phenomenon is sometimes called "Gypsy Summer" and in some places "Gypsy Christmas"....
Gypsies are the Indians of Europe, right? Native American European Non-Europeans. Surprisingly, Germany and Austria, always known for their mannered approach toward cultural differences, may have the most reasonable expression:
In Germany and Austria, it is called "Altweibersommer", or if referring to mild sunny weather during October in particular, simply "Goldener Oktober" ("Golden October").
It gets worse though. 
In Hungary, it's "vénasszonyok nyara" (Old Ladies' Summer or Crone's Summer) because the many white spiders seen at this time of the year have been associated with the norns of Norse folklore or medieval witches.
Maybe, or maybe because you can't trust a spider anymore than you can an old lady.

Women, Gypsies, Old-Women, Spiders, Indians - So, it's basically "Outcast Summer"? "Persecuted Peoples (and assorted arachnids that help witches)" Summer? Yeah... I'm thinking perhaps that's not the most stigma-free term I've ever used.

And yet, I've never heard/read/found someone say they were offended by it, so I don't want to just assume it's offensive, but I also don't know many Native Americans people personally (and the one lady I could ask would probably just laugh hysterically in my face, and then roll her eyes at me, because that's the kind of relationship we have: I love her to pieces, but I'm pretty sure she thinks I am the Liberalest Liberal who Ever Liberalled, and, since she loves me back, she just pretends that's not true.).

I'm already anticipating the eye-rolls I will get if I mention any of this to members of my family, because I constantly get crap from them about being "too PC" and "going overboard". I honestly don't believe there is such a thing, but whatever - that's not what I'm trying to do here: It's more checking my terminology and adjusting for how people want to be spoken to/about. Nobody has every mentioned this to me, and I'm not reading some large scale (or even minor scale) treatises about it online, so... I'm not making a huge deal about it because it's not my place to.

It's just one of those phrases that's slipped into our vocabulary over time that I wanted to know more about. And now that I know more about it, I'm troubled. I'm left wondering if it wouldn't be nice if there were a different term we could use here, and if I saw a story tomorrow about how Native Americans found the term Indian Summer to be racists, I wouldn't be surprised.

At least now I know. At least now, if someone asks me to not use the term, I'd have a way to explain it to the eye-rolling people, even if that wouldn't be good enough for them and their "PC monitoring". It's enough for me to know. Maybe I'll start using the German word, that was pretty.

No, actually, Wikipedia has some better ideas: Latvia calls it re/summer ("atvasara") and China calls the period autumn tiger (qiū lǎohǔ (秋老虎), which ROCKS ---> either of these are obviously better vocabulary choices, popular lexicon. Get with the program and let's just start calling it ReSummer - a brief period of summer again after frost/cold -, alright ?

That way nobody gets hurt, no one's culture is ridiculed or appropriated, and it makes literal sense. Problem solved.

Also of scientific note -

  • Some countries have very specific ReSummer criteria (such as dates and temperatures that must be met before it can be declared as such). I did not know this until I started writing this post, and I'm pretty sure the weather people on TV are also not aware of this, because I have heard them say it already, and even I know that it can't be Indian Summer until after the end of Meterological Summer, which is September 22. 
  • According to The Phrase Finder,  "The incidence of Indian summers has increased significantly over the past decade or so (in the UK at least - I can't speak for other countries) as one symptom of the unstable weather caused by global warming."
  • Apparently, haze is also required, according to "As well as being warm, the atmosphere during Indian summer is hazy or smoky, there is no wind, the barometer is standing high, and the nights are clear and chilly." (Then today DEFINITELY doesn't count, because while we have haze, there is no chilly night happening here.)  

So that's what I learned today, and now I've shared it with you. More stuff you didn't know was racist until you put a little bit of thought into it and realized, "Of course, that seems likely!" This, by the way, describes basically my entire sophomore year of college, if you also include sexist/abelist/ageist/homophobic/etc. Liberal Arts educations are very eye opening, and also make you feel like you have not been paying attention to anything, ever, in your entire life (at least, for privileged people, that is).

 Now back to our regularly scheduled sweating.

Seriously, with the heat: Stop.