The Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days of Summer

I can't believe school has already started.  It is soooo hot and the idea of recess or walking home from school makes me start sweating.  My elementary and high school didn't have air conditioning (they do now), so we would get out early on days with very high temperatures.  Of course, we didn't start school until late August, which we still thought was too early.  A friend of mine recently moved here and he asked me if this heat and humidity are normal for Birmingham.  I told him that we always have hot summers, but this is the hottest I can remember in a long time.  We are truly in the dog days of summer.  

What does the expression "dog days of summer" mean and where did it come from?  According to the book Common Phrases and Where They Come From, "the Romans called them canicula res dies, which translates into 'the dog days,' or the hottest days of the summer.  According to Roman beliefs, Sirius, the dog star of Roman astrology and the biggest star in the sky for a period of eight weeks (from about July 3 to August 11), rose daily with the sun.  Along with the sun, Sirius shone brightly throughout 'the dog days.'  So the intense heat during this period was ascribed not only to the heat of the sun but to the intense brightness of the dog star as well."

For our sake, I hope the Romans are right about the dates.  With orange ozone alerts and daily heat advisories, we can definitely use a break from the heat.  If you would like to learn more about the origin of common words and phrases, drop by your local, air-conditioned library to check out some books on the topic.  Really, Sirius, enough is enough with this heat!  I'm really serious about that.  See what I did there?  Stay cool.