Rainy Season

Yesterday saw the end of this year’s County Championship cricket season*, which many people regard as the official end of summer. As if to prove the point today, strong westerly winds have brought a deluge of rain all morning.

While I was waiting for my coffee to brew before venturing out into the rain this morning I was thinking about some idiomatic expressions for heavy rain. The most familiar one in English is Raining Cats and Dogs which, it appears, originated in a poem by Jonathan Swift that ends with the lines:

Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,
Dead cats and turnip tops come tumbling down the flood.

My French teacher at school taught me the memorable if slightly indelicate Il pleut comme vache qui pisse, although there are other French expressions involving, among other things nails, frogs and halberds.

One of my favourites is the Welsh Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn which means, bizarrely, “It’s raining old ladies and sticks”. There is also Mae hi’n bwrw cyllyll a ffyrc – “It’s raining knives and forks”.

Related idiomatic expressions in Irish are constructed differently. There isn’t a transitive verb meaning “to rain” so there is no grammatical way to say “it rains something”. The way around this is to use a different verb to represent, e.g., throwing. For example Tá sé ag caitheamh sceana gréasaí which means “It’s throwing cobblers’ knives”.

Talking (of) cobblers, I note that in Danish there is Det regner skomagerdrenge – “It’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices” and in Germany Es regnet Schusterjungs – “It’s raining cobblers’ boys”.

Among the other strange expressions in other languages are Está chovendo a barba de sapo (Portuguese for “It’s raining toads’ beards”), Пада киша уби миша (Serbian for “It’s raining and killing mice”),  Det regner trollkjerringer (Norwegian for “It’s raining female trolls”) and Estan lloviendo hasta maridos (Spanish for “It is even raining husbands”).

No sign of any husbands outside right now so I’ll get back to work. My PhD student is giving a seminar this afternoon so I have to think of some difficult questions to ask her! (Joking).

*For the record I should mention that Glamorgan drew their last game of the County Championship against Sussex (at Hove) and thus finished in 3rd place in Division 2. They might have beaten Middlesex to second place had they won and Middlesex lost their final matches but in the end both games were high scoring draws. Glamorgan lost to Middlesex in feeble style a couple of weeks ago so I think it was fair outcome.

2 Responses to “Rainy Season”

  1. Gary Mathlin Says:

    The Welsh idioms are constructed in a similar way to the Irish because of a similar lack of a transitive verb ‘to rain’ or, for that matter ‘to snow’. ‘Bwrw’ in the above translates as (according to Bangor University’s Ap Geiriaduron) to hit, punch, smite, stamp, cast, or fling.

    The straight forward way to say ‘ It is raining’ is ‘Mae hi’n bwrw glaw’, literally ‘is it in (a state of) flinging rain’. This isn’t a question, it’s a statement. The structure comes from the standard sentence form in Welsh – verb subject object. I believe that Irish is also a VSO language, which isn’t surprising given their common origin.

    Mae (is) comes from the verb ‘bod’ (to be). To ask the question ‘is it raining?’, we change the ‘Mae’ to Ydy to get ‘ydy hi’n bwrw glaw?’

    So ‘Mae hi’n bwrw wragedd a ffyn’ can be read as ‘It’s flinging old ladies and sticks.’ if the ‘a’ has a circumflex (to bach lit. little roof) on it then the sentence could be read as ‘It’s flinging old ladies with sticks’ which, for me at least, conjures up images of a crowd of elderly women knocking on windows and doors with their walking sticks demanding entry.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:

    Warwickshire beat Hampshire by 5 runs, keeping themselves in the top division while doing two things desirable to this Lancashire supporter: denying Hampshire second place in favour of Lancashire, and sending Yorkshire down. Lancashire had, a day earlier, thrashed newly crowned champions Surrey by an innings, setting a marker for next season. What happens to county cricket the season after that is currently the subject of an interesting controversy.

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