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Re: Origin of "Raining Cats and Dogs"

Posted by James Briggs on March 12, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of "Raining Cats and Dogs" posted by Andy Sporner on March 12, 2003

: I am looking today out the window and am
: reminded of the expression "Raining Cats and Dogs".
: I never thought to question where it came from
: but now I am. Does anyone have any ideas?

Here's what I've found out. The Archives could well have more.

Rain cats and dogs: If the rain is teeming down the it?s said to be raining cats and dogs. This seems to be an odd way of describing weather. The expression first appeared in print in 1653.("It shall raine.....dogs and polecats").
There are three possible origins, one of which goes back to Norse times. In old Norse weather lore the cat was related to rain and the dog to the wind. If this were the origin then it is likely that the words would have appeared in print before 1653.
The second suggestion puts the basis in the Greek word Catadupa, "cataract" or "waterfall".
The final idea suggests that the drainage of medieval streets was so poor that cats and dogs frequently drowned during a heavy downpour. Swift's "Description of a City Shower" gives a good idea of what it was like. It's worth repeating.
Now, from all parts the swelling kennels flow/ And bear their trophies with them as they go/..../ Drown'd puppies, stinking sprats, all drench'd in mud/ Dead cats and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.
You may take your choice. The argument continues.