Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dog days of summer

I'm not a dog person.  That doesn't mean to say I don't like dogs... I've known some wonderful dogs... but I prefer cats, and I certainly wouldn't want to own a dog.

Having said that, I do have to admit that there is something about a dog hanging its head outside a car window that just brings a smile to my face.  Big dog, little dog, cute dog, ugly dog ... doesn't matter. A dog with its head out the window = Smile on my face.
And while dogs seem willing to put their heads out the window just about any time, obviously the window has to be rolled down.  Most drivers don't like to roll their windows down if it's cold outside, so you mostly see dog-heads outside car windows in the summer.

So today, when I heard the phrase 'dog days of summer',  it made me wonder just what the phrase means.  Without looking it up, I think of the dog days of summer as meaning the last half of the summer. Not quite sure where I got that idea... I don't know, maybe something about a dog wagging its tail, and the tail end of the summer...but there it is.  So I went to wikipedia, and discovered that dog days referred to the hot and humid days of the summer.  In ancient Rome, the actual calendar dates assigned to the dogs were July 24-August 24... so the dog days officially begin tomorrow.  It certainly has been hot and humid, here in New England... over 17 days in July with temperatures over 90 degrees, so perhaps we've just got a jump start on things.

Ok, so while I had the reasoning wrong , I had the time of year right.

But of course this raises the next question.. why are these hot and humid days called dog days?  Maybe because that's when dogs are most likely to stick their heads out of car windows?  But that can't be it...  ancient Romans had chariots rather than cars, and chariots didn't have windows, and riding in a chariot ... well, obviously that's not the right answer.  

So.. back to wiki... and now this starts to make sense...  these days were called the dog days, because of the astrological location of Sirius, the dog star.   

But then I read on, and discovered that an Englishman named John Brady published an analysis of the calendar, back in 1814.  According to Brady, the Dog Days were an evil time, when "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid".   Oh dear.  Well, the sea has been a bit rough lately.  And I suppose the dogs who hear this might get a big angry at this undeserved bad reputation when all they want to do is hang their heads out the window.  And I certainly do become languid when it gets this hot and humid.

And as for the wine turning sour?  Well, you know my solution to that...I'll go have a cup of tea, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Unlike you, I wince when dogs hang their heads out of car windows. The strong wind can lead to cataracts and/or blindness. We need more owners like whoever put those goggles on the dog!

    Thanks for the history lesson. I'd forgotten about the link to Sirius.