The Dog Days of Summer

History isn’t always straightforward, is it? Humanity has a way of remembering certain things while forgetting others. And for the parts we forget, we are adept at filling in the blanks with something that makes sense, whether or not it’s historically accurate.

For some reason today, this random question popped into my head: where does the phrase “dog days of summer” come from?

I always assumed the idiom referred to summer days so hot that even dogs are lethargic, preferring to just lie around under a shade tree. My interpretation made sense to me, but I learned it’s not historically accurate.

The expression “dog days of summer” doesn’t originate from panting, lazy dogs. The phrase has its roots in ancient Greek culture. It refers to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky and the “nose” of Canis Major, a dog constellation.

Becky Little of National Geographic explains, “To the Greeks and Romans, the ‘dog days’ occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.”

Let’s always continue to be curious and to enjoy the dog days of summer.

For more history about the dog days of summer, please see this National Geographic article.

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