Posted by: Bystander PJ14 JUL 2011
The coming few weeks (roughly from mid-July until the end of August) are often described as the silly season. Why? Because news tends to be sparse and the tabloids compete for readers by publishing petty stories under attention-grabbing headlines.
There are several reasons why serious news is likely to be in short supply. Political reports dry up because of Parliament’s long summer recess. Legal reports are scarce because most law courts suspend their sittings for the summer. And other news is scant because organisers of potentially newsworthy events tend to avoid the late summer when punters may be away on holiday.
The end of the silly season traditionally arrives in September with the tedious round of political party conferences. These have to be got out of the way before Parliament reconvenes in October and can again provide us with some hard political news.
Anyway, in the spirit of the silly season, I now offer you an exclusively piddling news item of my own.
My trivial scoop is the revelation that this week saw the 150th anniversary of the birth of the expression “silly season”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term first appeared on 13 July 1861 in the Saturday Review, a weekly newspaper that was established in London in 1855 to cover the topics of politics, literature, science and the arts. Four days later the Morning Chronicle also used the term, but honourably attributed its origin to the Saturday Review.
After a gap of six months the term re-emerged in an item published in the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent. Other publications then took up the expression and it has remained in common use ever since. (The Saturday Review was not so long-lived, however, since it lasted only until 1938.)
And you cannot have a much more trivial news item than that.