“The Dog Days of Summer” – The Heck Does That Mean?
When I was a kid, the phrase 'dog days of summer' didn't mean anything more to me other than a reference to the hottest part of the summer. It was kind of like 'the Ides of March', another reference I didn't get until I was older.
Since we're about to enter said dog days, at least according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, I thought I'd do a little research and share what I found.
According to the Farmer's Almanac, the dog days of summer are July 3rd to August 11. The term 'dog days' comes from astronomy, specifically Sirius, the Dog Star. During the dog days, Sirius is in the same part of the sky as the Sun during the day. Because of that, the Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that when the two were that close together (from the perspective of someone on Earth), Sirius, as the brightest star in the night sky, added its heat to the Sun's, making the days hotter. Hence, the name 'dog days of summer'.
That matches what I learned in school about how the phrase came to be. Here's what I learned from the Almanac when I sat down to write this article.
In addition to the heat, the Ancient Greeks associated the dog days with things like fever, sudden thunderstorms (I can understand that one, since we get more thunderstorms during the summer), drought (also understandable), mad dogs, and even bad luck.
The Ancient Egyptians had a different view. They saw this annual astronomic event as a good thing, as it could be used to predict when the Nile would flood and irrigate their farmland.
So if you (or your pets) are going be out during the dog days, be sure to stay cool and drink plenty of water!
For more astronomical happenings: