I remember the first time I heard the term Indian summer. My mom used it to describe the dry, unseasonably warm weather we were experiencing while talking to my dad as we drove past a field of tall stalks of dry, pale yellow corn. I don’t remember what they were talking about, I don’t think I was even listening, but that phrase struck me with such significant beauty that I will never be able to forget the first time I heard it.
When the weather turned warm with bright blue skies this week, after weeks of dreary cold, I though, oh yay, Indian summer. Then I had to wonder if the term I’ve been using for my favourite time of the year was non-PC, racist and harmful. In an age when people love being offended, especially on behalf of others, it can be hard for someone who doesn’t typically face barriers of discrimination to know which words are actually destructive.
There are three main theories about the origin and etymology of Indian summer presented on Wikipedia:
- The time of dry heat – a type a weather very rarely seen in southern Ontario – following a cold and rainy period occurring in mid to late fall was first described to European settlers and explorers by Native American peoples.
- This type of weather frequently occurred during the Native American peoples’ traditional hunting season.
- It comes from some boaty-talk jargon involving the Indian Ocean.
There’s a quote I always think of, I can’t remember who said it because I can’t remember where I heard it, that goes something like, “A person who is always politically correct is a person who never says anything at all.” And while I firmly believe that political correctness has gone too far, I also believe that I’m not in any position to decide how someone else should feel about any word. Plus, theory #3 seems a little too convenient for the people who have never been hurt by words to actually be true.
All outfit photos by Matt Harrison, all flora photos by me.