In the parlance of journalism, the “silly season” is the period during late summer when news organizations often resort to publishing or airing frivolous stories, since government bodies, schools and sources of news with real gravitas are in recess. Now that school has begun in Uvalde and vacations have drawn to an end, we are happy to report that the “silly season” has almost concluded without too much – at least in our view – frivolity.
Nor is the annual summer news drought confined to the U.S. In fact the term “silly season” originated in the United Kingdom where it is also referred to as the “cucumber time.” You can imagine the lengths to which the British press go, with their paparazzi-fueled tabloids, to titillate readers into snapping up their publications.
We in the U.S. media also brand this time of year as simply the “slow news time” or the “dog days.” In German-speaking Europe the word is “sommerloch” (summer [news] hole) and the French label it as “la morte-saison” (the dead season or dull season) or “la saison des marronniers” (the conker tree season).
In Sweden, a silly season news item is called “rötmanådshitoria” and “mätäkuun juttu” in Finland, both meaning literally “rotting-month story.” And the Spanish use the term “serpiente de verano” (summer snake), not for the season, but for the news items. Apparently the phrase is a reference to the Loch Ness Monster and similar creatures, who clearly get more headlines in the “dog days.”
The top story from this year’s “silly season” has to be President Trump’s overtures to purchase Greenland from Denmark. If we had not been planted firmly in “cucumber time,” there is no way the story would have grown such long legs.
So now it’s back to the serious stuff, like dozens of people campaigning to be president, a festering trade war with China and the Amazon rain forest on fire. Come to think of it, the last item sounds like it belongs to the “silly season.” How exactly does a rain forest burn?
Closer to home, it feels good to put the “dog days” (with its 18 days of 100-degree plus readings) in the rear view mirror and gear up for a cooler fall and the excitement of Friday night lights. Here come the Coyotes!