why does it rain cats and dogs
What is the origin of the phrase it s raining cats and dogs? We don t know. The phrase might have its roots in Norse mythology, medieval superstitions, the obsolete word catadupe (waterfall), or dead animals in the streets of Britain being picked up by storm waters. The first recorded use of a phrase similar to raining cats and dogs was in the 1651 collection of poems Olor Iscanus. British poet Henry Vaughan referred to a roof that was secure against dogs and cats rained in shower. One year later, Richard Brome, an English playwright, wrote in his comedy
City Witt, It shall rain dogs and polecats. (Polecats are related to the weasel and were common in Great Britain through the end of the nineteenth century. ) In 1738, Jonathan Swift published his Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, a satire on the conversations of the upper classes. One of his characters fears that it will rain cats and dogs. Whether Swift coined the phrase or was using a clich, his satire was likely the beginning of the phrase s popularity. Other British writers have employed less popular phrases, such as it s raining pitchforks or it s raining stair-rods, to describe the shaft-like appearance of heavy rains. But Swift s phrase may have been memorable enough to stick in the mind of the public.
Swift also wrote a poem, City Shower (1710), that described floods that occurred after heavy rains. The floods left dead animals in the streets, and may have led locals to describe the weather as raining cats and dogs. Why cats and dogs? Again, we don t know for certain. Etymologists people who study the origins of words have suggested a variety of mythological and literal explanations for why people say it s raining cats and dogs to describe a heavy downpour. Here are some of the popular theories: Odin, the Norse god of storms, was often pictured with dogs and wolves, which were symbols of wind. Witches, who supposedly rode their brooms during storms, were often pictured with black cats, which became signs of heavy rain for sailors. Therefore, raining cats and dogs may refer to a storm with wind (dogs) and heavy rain (cats). Cats and dogs may come from the Greek expression cata doxa, which means contrary to experience or belief. If it is raining cats and dogs, it is raining unusually or unbelievably hard. Cats and dogs may be a perversion of the now obsolete word catadupe. In old English, catadupe meant a cataract or waterfall. A version of catadupe existed in many old languages.
In Latin, for example, catadupa was borrowed from the classical Greek , which referred to the cataracts of the Nile River. So, to say it s raining cats and dogs might be to say it s raining waterfalls. A false theory stated that cats and dogs used to cuddle into thatch roofs during storms and then be washed out during heavy rains. However, a properly maintained thatch roof is naturally water resistant and slanted to allow water to run off. In order to slip off the roof, the animals would have to be lying on the outside an unlikely place for an animal to seek shelter during a storm. For more print resources. Animal folklore, English language etymology, or English language terms and phrases in the. From G rard Joann s : I know the phrase it s raining cats and dogs is a bit outdated, but do you have any idea about its origin? How many explanations would you like? I have found at least five. The most common one says that in olden times, homes had thatched roofs in which domestic animals such as cats and dogs would like to hide. In heavy rain, the animals would either be washed out of the thatch, or rapidly abandon it for better shelter, so it would seem to be raining cats and dogs. Other suggestions include derivation from a similar sounding but unspecified Greek aphorism which meant an unlikely occurrence, or that it is a corrupted version of a rare French word, catadoupe, meaning a waterfall.
It has also been suggested that at one time the streets of British towns were so poorly constructed that many cats and dogs would drown whenever there was a storm; people seeing the corpses floating by would think they had fallen from the sky, like the proverbial rains of frogs. The most favoured one in the references I have found is mythological. It seems that cats were at one time thought to have influence over storms, especially by sailors, and that dogs were symbols of storms, often accompanying images and descriptions of the Norse storm god Odin. So when some particularly violent tempest appeared, people suggested it was caused by cats (bringing the rain) and dogs (the wind). There is, I have to report, no evidence that I can find for any connection between the saying and the mythology other than the flat assertions of writers. The phrase first appears in its modern form in Jonathan Swift s A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation in 1738: I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs, though a variant form is recorded in 1653 in City Wit, a work of the English playwright Richard Brome, in which he wrote It shall raine.
Dogs and Polecats, which seems to suggest a stranger and less easily comprehensible origin. There are other similes which employ falls of improbable objects as figurative ways of expressing the sensory overload of noise and confusion that can occur during a violent rainstorm; people have said that it s raining like pitchforks (first recorded in 1815), hammer handles, and even chicken coops. It may be that the version with cats and dogs fits into this model, without needing to invoke supernatural beliefs or inadequate drainage. Having said all that, there is some evidence that suggests a direct link between heavy rain that seems to precipitate cats and dogs. It comes from a poem by Jonathan Swift, A Description of a City Shower Sweeping from butchers stalls, dung, guts, and blood; Drown d puppies, stinking sprats, all drench d in mud, Dead cats, and turnip-tops, come tumbling down the flood. As Swift penned these lines in 1710, nearly 30 years before he wrote the book in which raining cats and dogs appears for the first time, it just might suggest that he was quoting an expression he himself had created.
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