If you look at your calendar tomorrow (as I write), it will probably say something like “first day of Summer.”
To which I reply, balderdash.
What tomorrow is (in the northern hemisphere) is the summer solstice; that is, the day when the sun is at its peak height in the sky (due to Earth’s being tilted about 23 degrees relative to the sun). Logically, if “summer” is the season defined by the sun being at its height, then “summer” should be the quarter of the year surrounding the solstice. That is, summer began about 45 days ago. June 21 is the peak of summer – its midpoint – not the beginning of summer. (This is, obviously, a northern-hemisphere -centric view. In the southern hemisphere, we’re talking about winter, and the sun’s lowest high point in the sky.) I’m not entirely sure how June 21 (the solstice) got to be the “official” beginning of summer (and what “office” is it that decrees such things?), but it makes no sense.
Some will argue: yeah, but the warm weather’s just starting now, and really, it goes on for another couple-three months, until autumn begins in September. Here, maybe: typical temperatures are obviously going to vary according to location. If we’re to have any consistency in terms of what season it is, local weather variations can’t have much to do with it. It makes far more sense to note that, astronomically, “summer” is defined by the sun’s highest point in the sky, while the warmest times of the year will vary according to location, geography, etc. (And of course, even in the northern hemisphere, not all places experience their warmest weather in June, July, or August.)
While I’m at it: how many colors in a rainbow? You’ll probably recall from your junior-high science classes that the answer is seven, and that the colors are, in order, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. You can remember that via the useful acronym “Roy G. Biv” (kind of a lousy acronym, actually, dependent as it is upon a naked initial in the middle). But really, the reason people need that acronym is that the “official” (one of the most abused words in the language) list of colors in the spectrum is a bit off. Here’s an experiment: outside the context of rainbows or spectra, ask people to name colors. They’ll almost certainly name red, green, and blue, maybe yellow (if they’re graphic artists they might say “cyan” and “magenta” instead: such people are extremely dangerous, and they should be shunned vigorously). They might say “orange.” It’s remotely possible they’ll say “violet.” But it’s almost a dead-certain bet they will not say “indigo.” Other than for fans of a folk-singing Atlanta-based lesbian duo, “indigo” is just plain not a common term. And of course, the rainbow does not neatly divide into seven colors, or any set number: it’s a continuous spectrum.
So why “Roy G. Biv”? Basically, because Isaac Newton was a mystical nutbar, in addition to his scientific brilliance. There needed to be seven colors, you see, because there were seven days of creation, yadda yadda yadda. If not for Isaac’s Bible jones, we probably wouldn’t even mention “indigo.” And those Georgia singers would be “The Purple Girls” or something.
The Rolling Stones “She’s a Rainbow” (Their Satanic Majesties Request, 1967)
Todd Rundgren’s Utopia “The Seven Rays” (Another Live, 1975)
Camper Van Beethoven “June” (Key Lime Pie, 1989)