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It used to be the case that the summer period, from roughly early July to early September, in Britain was known as the 'silly season' to newspaper people. It was a time when newspapers were short of news copy, parliament and the law courts being in recesss, football was in close season etc.

It was a time when 'silly' news stories appeared on the front pages. In 1966, when the World Cup was stolen and a little dog found it in a hedgerow it typified the type of story the press craved during the summer months to fill their pages. Things like the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the death of Diana in 1997, both in the middle of the silly season, came as a godsend to news proprietors.

Nowadays one hears less of the silly season which may be a reflection of a global news industry, and 24 hour reporting. This year, with the events in Ukraine, Gaza, and now Iraq, newspapers certainly have no shortage of copy.

But what I would like to know is how the term 'silly season' translates in other parts of the Anglosphere. Is there typically a silly season, and how is it described?

  • In US I've heard of "a slow news day" but not a season or period of time. – Kristina Lopez Aug 13 '14 at 22:58
  • When the news turns to shark attacks and missing white girls. it's silly season in the US. Congress is on vacation and if there were any UFO's they'd be front page news. It used to be a fairly commonly known term over here, but I think has faded some since the 60's. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 13 '14 at 23:25
  • I'm pretty sure this is a UK-only term, WS2. Spain and Portugal (and probably quite a few other European countries) shut down almost completely in August and news reports tend to become even more "tabloidy" (if that's possible). There's not a specific name for this period in Portugal, but it's effectively the same thing as "silly season". – Mark Raishbrook Aug 13 '14 at 23:31
  • I've heard of it in the US, with newspapers. These days it is always silly season. – Oldcat Aug 13 '14 at 23:56
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    It's the title, and the premise, of a very famous American science fiction story by C. M. Kornbluth, published in 1950. – John Lawler Aug 14 '14 at 0:12
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According to Wikipedia in US the 'silly season' is referred to as the 'slow news season' while in Australia and New Zeland it is closely related to the Christmas season:

  • In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel, and in some other places, the silly season is the period lasting for a few summer months typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media.

    • The term was coined in an 1861 Saturday Review article,1 and was listed in the second edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1894) and remains in use at the start of the 21st century. The fifteenth edition of Brewer's expands on the second, defining the silly season as "the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)".
  • In the United States the period is referred to prosaically as the slow news season. In Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the silly season has come to refer to the Christmas/New Year festive period (which occurs during the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere) on account of the higher than usual number of social engagements where the consumption of alcohol is typical.

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