Posted by James Briggs on June 07, 2000
In Reply to: Life in the 1500s posted by ESC on June 07, 2000
: : : I read the origin and meaning posted, but I thought I had heard somewhere that the phrase actually originated in England/Ireland/Scotland in the 15 or 1600s, when animals routinely slept on the thatched roofs of homes. When a huge downpour came, the animals were forced off the roofs, and it appeared to be "raining cats and dogs." Anybody else heard this??
: : There's a bogus "Life in the 1500s" document floating around Internet. It was "debunked" on another phrase site. If I find the site, I'll post it.
: This is from the site "Take Our Word for It." http://www.takeourword.com/Issue039.html
: "I'LL DESCRIBE THEIR HOUSES A LITTLE. YOU'VE HEARD OF THATCH ROOFS, WELL THAT'S ALL THEY WERE. THICK STRAW, PILED HIGH, WITH NO WOOD UNDERNEATH. THEY WERE THE ONLY PLACE FOR THE LITTLE ANIMALS TO GET WARM. SO ALL THE PETS, DOGS, CATS AND OTHER SMALL ANIMALS, MICE, RATS, BUGS, ALL LIVED IN THE ROOF."
: Well, the "other small animals" part (but not the pets) is true. Even today, one of the problems with thatched roofs is that they attract rats. But dogs, how silly! How do you expect them to get on the roof of a house?
: "WHEN IT RAINED IT BECAME SLIPPERY SO SOMETIMES THE ANIMALS WOULD SLIP AND FALL OFF THE ROOF. THUS THE SAYING, "IT'S RAINING CATS AND DOGS."
: How then, do you account for the equivalent Welsh expression which translates as raining old ladies and sticks? Besides, if these thatched roofs became slippery when wet, it would not have taken a downpour to make them slippery, but the term raining cats and dogs refers to heavy rain, or downpours. The term, which has been around since the 18th century, is of unknown origin but there are several theories floating about, none of which has anything to do with thatched roofs!
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.