CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)


Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

We figured whoever said that might have been referring to Mississippi summer suns, a timely topic right now when we're in the middle of dog days, and just about everybody is talking about the weather.

You know the rest of that old saw: Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.

Louise Jones called with a question about the origin of the mad-dog quotation, and after some searching, I found the complete song published in 1931 by Noel Coward:

"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

"The Japanese don't care to, the Chinese wouldn't dare to,

"The Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,

"But Englishmen detest a siesta.

"In the Philippines, they have lovely screens to protect you from the glare;

"In the Malay states, they have hats like plates

"Which the Britishers won't wear.

"At twelve noon, the natives swoon,

"And no further work is done;

"But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."

Not only do we talk about weather, we write about it. A century ago James Russell Lowell wrote about how country folks - actually he said "those who live in the country" - cannot go long without being bitten by meteorological ambitions.

We like to be "hotter and colder, to have been more deeply snowed in, to have more trees and larger blown down than our neighbors," Lowell said.

And early in this century, Walt Mason penned these satiric lines: "The statesman throws his shoulders back and straightens up his tie,/And says, 'My friends, unless it rains, the weather will be dry.'/And when this thought into our brains has circulated through,/We common people nod our heads and loudly say, 'How true.'"

In more satire some years ago, H.I. Phillips, a New York newspaper columnist, wrote lines that I've repeated before:

"When heat waves come and scorch the streets

"And humid is the long-drawn day;

"Then editors into huddles go

"And to the cameramen declare:

"'Quick! To the zoo, for we must show

"Some pictures of a polar bear.'"

The time for watching the fogs of August is almost at hand, so weather watchers take note - before long it will be time for our official winter-weather prognostication, and it cannot be done until we receive reports from a lot of folks.

The number of fogs in August foretells the number of snows we can expect on corresponding dates during the winter.

Several folks have reported observing woolly worms, all of them black or brown, which portends a cold winter. Light yellow woollies mean a mild winter.

Paul James of Amory reported seeing jet-black woollies in his yard on two occasions, and also said he heard the katydids singing real early, which may mean an early frost.

Jessica still hospitalized

Jessica Pace is still hospitalized, and will be for some time, though her condition is improving. Jessica, 14, had a heart and double-lung transplant last fall, and was doing well until a lung infection occurred. Her mother, Elizabeth Vinson, called me Tuesday evening, and said a high point in Jessica's day is opening the mail, and they want everyone to know all the cards are appreciated. Her address is St. Louis Children's Hospital, One Children's Place, Room 7-West-46, St. Louis, MO 63110.

Phyllis Harper is Daily Journal feature editor.

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