When I first moved to Germany I was surprised when people told me they had visited or planned to go to New England for Indian Summer, as if it were a sure thing. How did they calculate, I wondered. I wondered aloud, and found out what they meant was 'foliage season,' when trees turned colorful as a headress full of feathers. It was easy to understand where the mistake was made.
Still, I tried to explain what Indian Summer really was - that time of year when the heat creeps back, although you thought autumn had started, a bout of hot weather usurping the season, unexpected and unwelcome. It was than that I first made the connection between Indian Summer and 'Indian giver.'
This backstory was more difficult to explain, and eventually I gave up. I know where the expression comes from, but I let the Germans keep their own, though the imprecision irks. Am I lazy, or just dismayed by the effort of explaining, or is it worse than that? Is Indian Summer = foliage season a semantic whitewash?