The “summer hole” by any other name

Seeing how this is the perfect time for this, I thought some linguistic news that doesn’t fit anywhere else might be in order.

So I present to you what we in Germany call the “summer hole” (Sommerloch), as defined by Wikipedia – enjoy!

In the United Kingdom and in some other places, the silly season is the period  lasting for a few summer months typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media. It is known in many languages as the cucumber time. The term is first attested in 1861, was listed in the second (1894) edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and remains in use at the start of the 21st century. The fifteenth edition of Brewer’s expands on the second, defining the silly season as “the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)”.

In North America the period is often referred to prosaically as the slow news season, or less commonly with the phrase dog days of summer. In Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the silly season has come to refer to the Christmas/New Year festive period (which occurs during the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere) on account of the higher than usual number of social engagements where the consumption of alcohol is typical.

The term is also used in sports, to describe periods outside traditional competitive sporting seasons.


Other countries have comparable periods, for example the Sommerloch (“summer [news]hole”) in German-speaking Europe; French has la morte-saison (“the dead season” or “the dull season”) or “la saison des marronniers” (“the conker tree season”), and Swedish has nyhetstorka (“news drought”).

In many languages, the name for the silly season references cucumbers (more precisely: gherkins or pickled cucumbers). Komkommertijd in Dutch, Danish agurketid, Icelandic gúrkutíð, Norwegian agurktid (a piece of news is called agurknytt or agurknyhet, i.e., “cucumber news”), Czech okurková sezóna, Slovak uhorková sezóna, Polish Sezon ogórkowy, Hungarian uborkaszezon, and Hebrew עונת המלפפונים (onat ha’melafefonim, “season of the cucumbers”) all mean “cucumber time” or “cucumber season”. The corresponding term in German is Sauregurkenzeit and in Estonian hapukurgihooaeg (“pickled cucumber season”); the same term is also used in Croatian as sezona kiselih krastavaca and in Slovene as čas kislih kumaric.

The term “cucumber time” was also used in England in the 1800s to denote the slow season for tailors.

A silly season news item is called rötmånadshistoria in Sweden and mätäkuun juttu in Finland, both literally meaning “rotting-month story”.

In Spain the term serpiente de verano (“summer snake”) is often used, not for the season, but for the news items. The term is a reference to the Loch Ness Monster and similar creatures, who are reputed to get more headlines in summer.

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