For many freelance translators there is a time for sowing and a time for reaping. There is also a time for waiting; the doldrums; a lull in work where little happens and offers of work are few and far between. What should translators do in this time of stagnation? If we treat this period as a ‘time for sowing’ rather than a lull in work then we can turn a potentially deadening and depressing time into a productive and industrious period. We can use this ‘window of opportunity’ to search for new clients, new contacts and, of course, new contracts. We can also use this time to brush up on cultural and linguistic areas that have heretofore been neglected by us. The silly season need not necessarily be ‘silly’.
From a translational point of view, silly season is a fascinating phrase. In British English the silly season refers to that time of year characterised by exaggerated (silly) media news stories because of the lack of serious news due to the fact that politicians and celebrities are usually on holiday. In the United Kingdom this is usually late summer. Other European languages have their own equivalent phrases. French uses the term la morte-saison (the dead season), German has two terms: das Sommerloch (the summer hole) and Sauregurkenzeit (pickled gherkin time), the second being a common motif across Europe.
Gherkins and cucumbers seem to be a recurrent theme in many languages. Dutch uses komkommertijd, Norwegian agurktid, Danish agurketid (cucumber time). Norwegian refers to agurknytt (cucumber news). The non Indo-European Hungarian uses uborkaszezon (cucumber season) which is mirrored also in Czech and Polish. These Slavonic languages respectively use: okurková sezóna and sezon ogórkowy (cucumber season). Another term referring to the summer period which occurs in Polish is kanikuła, fascinating from an etymological point of view.
Kanikuła comes from the Latin canicula referring to the time of year between 22 June and 23 August when the sun (used to) rise at the same time as Sirius (the Dog Star, Latin Canicula). It also refers to the hottest days of the year. What makes this Polish phrase fascinating is the fact that etymologically it is equivalent to the English phrase dog days referring to that time of year which is hot or stagnant or when there is a period of inactivity. Therefore, when we refer to this seasonal lull in English we can use silly season or dog days and in Polish sezon ogórkowy or kanikuła.