Cucumber Time

Aug 9 '13

In Dutch the word “komkommertijd” (“cucumber time”) is used to describe the period when newspapers put stories about goats on the Congressional cemetery on the front page because politicians are on vacation. In the UK they call this “silly season” whereas in the U.S. (according to the almighty Wikipedia) “slow news season” is the accurate but dreadfully boring description of the phenomenon.

Much to my surprise, the likely origins of the term “komkommertijd” are English (although another plausible theory is that it has Yiddish origins). An English dictionary already included the term in 1699:

Cucumber-time, Taylers Holiday, when they have leave to Play, and Cucumbers are in season.

When the cucumbers were in season the gentry left town for the countryside and business was slow for tailors. Peculiarly, translations of the term appear in many languagesSauregurkenzeit (German), agurktid (Norwegian),  uborkaszezon , Okurková sezóna (Czech), Sezon ogórkowy (Polish), and Onat Ha’melafefonim (Hebrew). I can’t speak for all the languages, but in German it has the same meaning as in Dutch.

I think “cucumber time” should make a comeback in the English language. It’s a beautiful term that can be used to describe slow business days of any kind. Its origins are wonderfully obscure but there is a legacy that protects the term from being overly frivolous. Let’s relegate “slow news season” to the dustbin of history and restore “cucumber time” to its rightful place.