Switzerland's Indian Summer: Altweibersommer

What is "Altweibersommer"

The endless summer of 2018 had to end at some point. I have to keep reminding my kids to wear a fleece because we are now back to crisp and sometimes very foggy mornings, while still hoping the afternoons will bring back the blue skies and golden sunshine. This warm sunny weather with high pressure causing beautiful warm golden autumn days, is called an Indian Summer in the English speaking world, and in the German speaking part of Switzerland it is called Altweibersommer

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When I first directly translated this word Altweibersommer, I rolled my eyes. My automatic reaction was to associate weiber with the term weib—the old german word for women, which today if used isn’t in usually used in a positive light. But I dug a little deeper and it seems my translation wasn’t 100% correct! According to the DW website, the word weiber comes actually from the word weben “to weave” and has more to do with spider webs than with grumpy old women. The local TV weather website agrees with the spiderweb theory, but goes on to suggest the thin silky spun spiderwebs look like thin grey hair of an old woman. 

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But apparently I wasn’t the only person, to find the word a little offensive. In 1989, a then 77 year old woman brought her concerns, that the word “altweibersommer” was discriminatory against old women, to her district court. The woman was unsuccessful in her attempt, with the reason being the term was created long before she was born.

Whether you call it, Indian Summer or Altweibersommer, I hope we still have a couple more of those beautiful warm days ahead of us this autumn!

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