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Un Été Indien – Surprising Autumn Weather In France Posted by on Oct 18, 2017 in Vocabulary

Cette semaine (this week) the weather in Paris has been surprisingly good. Le chaleur (the heat) surprised many people and un collègue (a coworker) in turn surprised me with un nouveau mot (a new word) for the nice weather!

Image by Daniel Dudek on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The idea of surprise heat when the season should be getting colder is not something I experienced growing up in la Floride and as such I never had a word for l’idée (the idea).

Alors (so), when mon collègue said that it was un été indien (an Indian Summer) she was surprised to learn that I wasn’t familiar with le terme (the word, the term), puisque (since) it originally comes from l’anglais (English).

Le terme does in fact come from l’Amérique du Nord (North America) and the use of indien refers to Native Americans and not people from l’Inde (India).

L’origine (the origin) of le mot is largely unknown, but it could refer to the time when Native Americans would begin to prepare for l’hiver (Winter). Le terme is thought to have spread from la Pennsylvanie north to la nouvelle Angleterre (New England) and onward to le Canada during the colonial period of the 17th and 18th centuries.

En passant (incidentally), au Québec they use a slightly different mot than en France: L’été des indiens.

Alors pourquoi dit-on « un été Indien » en France ?
So why do people say “un été indien” in France?

The last period of warm weather before le froid d’hiver (the cold of Winter) is traditionally known as l’été de la Saint-Martin (the Summer of Saint Martin) en France. La Saint-Martin is a holiday on le 11 novembre (November 11th), une date (a date) that is close to the last breath of warm weather.

L’été indien came from a popular 1975 chanson (song) by un chanteur français originaire des États-Unis (a French singer originally from the United States), Joe Dassin. Les paroles (the lyrics) make it clear that le terme comes from l’Amérique du nord:

« C’était l’automne, un automne où il faisait beau
Une saison qui n’existe que dans le Nord de l’Amérique
Là-bas on l’appelle l’été indien »

“It was autumn, an autumn with good weather
A season that only exists in the North of America
Over there we call it the Indian Summer”

Peu importe les origines (no matter the origins), everyone can enjoy the surprisingly good weather before the cold months of l’hiver, even if le chaleur makes it hard to sleep!

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About the Author:John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


Comments:

  1. Jack:

    During the period called The Raj in India the British ruling administratiors would move to higher altitudes in the mountains for the summer months to avoid the stifling heat. They referred to it as Indian Summer. This may have been the origin of the phrase.

  2. J. Kern:

    Thank you for posting! This blog really helps deepen my understanding of the French language while providing an opportunity to practice outside of dull, but necessary, drills.