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The silly season

Posted by Smokey Stover on August 06, 2009 at 15:52

In Reply to: The silly season posted by ESC on August 05, 2009 at 18:14:

: I thought this phrase was coined by U.S. talk show host Johnny Carson. The silly season -- in the northern hemisphere, mid to late summer when frivolous news is rampant. (Of course, now that's year-round.) One of my phrase scouts just sent me the link to an article that says "silly season" is older than Mr. Carson's show.

The Wikipedia article which ESC has cited is pretty comprehensive. The OED offers a few specific citations from the 19th century on, as well as a definition, s.v. season:

"silly season, the months of August and September, when newspapers supply the lack of real news by articles or discussions on trivial topics; also transf. and attrib. . . .

[Examples:] "1861 Sat. Rev. 13 July 37/2 We have, however, observed this year very strong symptoms of the Silly Season of 1861 setting in a month or two before its time. 1871 Punch 9 Sept. 102/2 The present time of the year has been named 'the silly season'. . . . "

These definitions have newspapers in mind. Now that most people get their information about the world from television, is the term still appropriate? Isn't every season the silly season on television? Perhaps the season, at least in entertainment programs (as opposed to what else? commercials?), runs between what is now called the "summer finale" and the fall reruns and copycats.