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Joseph’s English Corner

Hello everyone!
With the end of summer approaching and typhoon season just around the corner, some students who read my first blog entry wanted to know the origin of the idiom “raining cats and dogs”.
Well, I like English and have always liked learning about idioms and phrases in my high school English class. I know that “raining cats and dogs” means that it is pouring rain or raining very hard. The phrase leads to the great joke, “What happened to the man when it was raining cats and dogs? He stepped in a poodle!”
But seriously, many people seem to think that this phrase originated because of animals that got swept away with strong winds and would then fall from the sky. While the animals were things such as small frogs and snails, they decided to say cats and dogs. However, this is not true.

Then, another of the most common thoughts is that it is because dogs and cats lived in thatched roofs so they could stay warm. When it rained, the cats and dogs would fall out of the roof or off of the roof. This is not true either.

Instead, I believe that the phrase has to do with unsanitary conditions in the 1600s and 1700s. In a 1710 publication of Tatler magazine, Jonathan Swift’s poem,A Description of a City Shower, was published in which appears ”Drown’d Puppies, all drench’d in Mud,

Dead Cats and Turnip-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.”

In other words, the unsanitary conditions of those times meant that the bodies of dead animals, including cats and dogs, would be carried in the water flowing in the city streets.

Then, in 1738, Jonathan Swift did use the phrase “rain cats and dogs” in A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation. Being that he had written about the bodies of the animals flowing in the streets earlier makes this origin of the phrase believable and credible.

So there you have it!  The origin of “It’s raining cats and dogs”!

Stay dry and see you here again next week!  :)

Key vocabulary
1. Poodle = A type of dog which sounds like “puddle” (a small pool of dirty water)
2. Thatched roofs = Roofs made from grass, leaves, and straw
3. Unsanitary = Dirty; Unclean
4. Drown’d = Drowned = To die by sinking into water and being unable to breathe
5. Puppies = Baby dogs
6. Drench’d = Drenched = Covered in
7. Turnip = A type of root vegetable
8. Tumbling down = Falling down

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