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NO. 237: It’s Raining Ropes and Other Such Things

I think I am getting my comeuppance for posting so much about our long and warm fall and our early and bright spring.


We have definitely hit a rainy spell in France……and by rain, I mean “cats and dogs” type of rain. Which of course got me to thinking about the equally vivid, but much less random French phrase, il pleut des cordes, or it is raining cords, as in, there is so much rain, the drops have joined together like long thin ropes dangling between the heavens and earth.


Which is much more poetic than “cats and dogs”, especially now that I’ve researched the genesis of that not-so-whimsical-to-me-anymore phrase. There are of course many different theories about the origins of our four-footed friends tumbling from the skies. They most fanciful being that in the olden-days thatched roofs couldn’t support perched animals in the rain and they literally fell through your roof when it rained. The phrase more likely originates from inferior seventeenth century drainage systems, where heavy rains washed dead and decaying cats, dogs, rats, and birds stuck in the gutters onto the streets.

A less grim and more agreeable explanation (and one that will please francophiles) is that the phrase “cats and dogs” is merely a mispronunciation of an old French word: “catadupe” which meant “waterfall”. And raining waterfalls makes a heck of a lot more sense, and conjures a much more pleasant image than cats and dogs plummeting to the ground.

Of course the French do have their less polite way to describe the weather we have been having for the past few weeks: Il pleut comme vache qui pisse: It’s raining like a pissing cow.

But remember:

Après la pluie le beau temps!

Every cloud has a silver lining!

(literally, after the rain, the nice weather)


Here are a few more of my favorite European expressions describing buckets of rain:

The Danes would say: Det regner skomagerdrenge: It’s raining cobbler boys/shoemakers’ apprentices.

You might hear a German say: Es regnet junge Hunde: It’s raining puppies.

In Greece, it rains chair legs, of course: Brékhei kareklopódara.

And our Norwegian friends just might tell you: Det regner trollkjerringer: It’s raining troll women/witches.




4 Comments Post a comment
  1. suespix #

    In oz we say “It’s pissing down!” – no cows though! 🙂 and when the rain is barely adequate it will be “just a spit”. I love the Greek chair legs – hilarious 😀

    May 14, 2014
  2. Heart Kindling #

    In Lithuania people say ‘Lyja kaip iš kibiro’. Which is not poetic at all and literally translates as ‘rains as if from a bucket’, i.e. somebody on the upper floor must have upturned an entire bucket on us 🙂

    May 14, 2014
    • Hi,
      Well it may not be poetic, but it is certainly descriptive. Full buckets of rain is what has been coming down here in Paris. thanks for sharing! 🙂

      May 14, 2014

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