In case you haven’t been paying attention to the weather (which seems impossible I know) we are now in the midst of the dog days. A lot of folks think the the phrase “dog days” comes from the way domestic dogs will lay around during hot humid weather. I know I did. It turns out the term comes from the Latin “dies caniculares” which the Romans used to refer to the hottest days of summer usually falling between early July and early September in the northern hemisphere. The ancients believed that Sirius, the “Dog Star,” was responsible for the extreme heat and humidity. Apparently, Sirius was a pretty testy celestial body and prone to frequent fits of temper. According to John Brady’s Clavis Calendarium the dog days were a time when “the seas boiled” and “wine turned sour.” Also, “dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrenzies.”
If you’re interested in knowing more about the animal origins of common phrases, pick up a copy of Dog Days and Dandelions: a lively guide to the animal meanings behind everyday words by Martha Barnette. Or you might enjoy Black Sheep and Lame Ducks: the origins of even more phrases we use everyday by Jack Albert.
Kids can keep cool and enjoy There’s a Frog In my Throat!: 440 animal sayings a little bird told me by Loreen Leedy and Pat Street.
If you’re in the mood for a movie, consider Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet’s 1975 drama about a bank robbery that goes about as wrong as it possibly can. Starring Al Pacino as a first-time bank robber, the film garnered 6 Oscar nominations and won Best Original Screenplay. The cast is excellent particularly Pacino whose portrayal of Sonny is absolutely mesmerizing. Heavy on atmosphere, the movie perfectly captures the seediness and heat of an August day in 70’s era Brooklyn. One reviewer said “…you can almost smell the garbage baking” which I realize may not appeal, but this film is considered, quite rightly in my opinion, to be an American classic.