It’s raining…something

After a couple of weeks of weather designed to make us remember that summer hasn’t yet left the Algarve, today dawned cloudy, with a lovely cool breeze. The air is heavy with humidity, and the clouds are threatening rain. (Up north they’re doing more than just threatening.)

This is the time of year where, when it rains, it rains hard. Or as we’d say in English, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” A more folksy phrase I’ve heard is, “It’s raining hard enough to drown a frog.” But cats and dogs are much more common.

Of course it’s different in Portuguese. Here they say “Está chovendo a canivetes,” or “It’s raining pocketknives.” This strikes me as rather charming, but then I have a thing for pocketknives.

Other less commonly used phrases include “Está chovendo a cântaros” (It’s raining jugs) and “Chove como Deus a dá” (It rains like God gives it).

What are the equivalent phrases in other languages? I’m sure there must be some great ones out there. And while you think about it, I’ll leave you with this classic from The Weather Girls, circa 1982.

(Note: I tried to embed the video, but Sony Music has suddenly decided to be a douchebag and forbid anyone to view their artists anywhere but on YouTube. An excellent reason not to buy anything from Sony.)


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in language, Portugal. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to It’s raining…something

  1. Inge says:

    Oh let’s see.. ‘het regent pijpenstelen’ or translated: It’s raining shanks (pipe). This is related to the pipes of Gouda. They originally had very straight shanks and when the rain pours down perpendicular to the ground, this is used. image:

    Or we could say: ‘het regent oude wijven’ or: ‘It’s raining old women’. No idea why we use them and it seems this expression is ancient so it is hard to find the origin.

    • oregon expat says:

      I like “it’s raining old women”! Plus it goes great with the video.

      • Inge says:

        I googled a bit more and it seems that ‘oudewijven’ is based on legends of old women in heaven, whom performed a variety of tasks: shaking out the bedsheets (and thus causing snow to fall on earth) or baking pancakes (which results in rain while the sun still shines) and so on.

        Even more back into time, oudewijven referred to an old woman water spirit, with white hair.

        I can kind of see how it evolved to the raining thing..

        • René says:

          Afrikaans: “ou vrouens met knopkieries” or “old women with clubs”

          African twist on the Dutch original?

          • Inge says:

            I always love hearing Afrikaans… well reading it in this case. I had to look up knopkierie because i couldn’t link it with something dutch. ( So it’s typically Afrikaans. I love it.. dangerous women 🙂

          • René says:

            In that case:
            Ek hoop jy het ‘n lekker naweek.

          • Inge says:

            Bedankt. Hetzelfde voor u: een plezant weekeinde. 🙂

          • Alma says:

            I think it’s so cool that I understood that Dutch/Afrikaans about pleasant weekends just because I speak another Germanic language (Swedish). Also: funny figures of speech you guys have!

          • Inge says:

            I know. I always have the same idea when i hear German being spoken. But i have to admit, i never truly realised Swedish was also Germanic in nature. It’s so cool to know. A small world we live in, isn’t it?

            I’m sure you Swedish also have some intriguing figure of speeches. 🙂 I firmly believe any language has them otherwise it must be a very boring people, no? We just lucked out by this particular choice of rain.. We know it well here in Belgium. 🙂

  2. Lilaine says:

    Hi 🙂
    It’s not raining yet here, in Antibes.
    But, when that does, ça pisse dru ! (It’s pissing down, just like in English).
    Il pleut(tombe) des hallebardes (it’s raining(falling) halberds ).
    Il pleut à verses (ou à seau) (It’s pouring rain, it’s raining buckets).
    Il pleut comme vache qui pisse (It’s raining like a pissing cow)
    Il tombe des cordes (It’s falling ropes)
    ….. and various regional expressions I don’t know …

  3. Alma says:

    Swedes say “det spöregnar” – it’s raining rods. When it’s only raining a little, we say “det regnar småspik” – it’s raining small nails (the ones you hammer, not the ones on your fingers).

    Si Liliane ne les avait pas déjà dit, j’aurais pu ajouter “il pleut des cordes” et “il pleut comme vache qui pisse.” Comme j’adore ces expressions! 😀

  4. M. says:

    In Poland leje jak z cebra (it’s raining buckets, or literally it’s pissing like from bucket)

  5. JJ says:

    You have a thing for pocketknives? Interesting… I enjoyed reading this little tidbit on the difference between cultures. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jana says:

    Leje jako z konve. = It’s raining/pouring like from a watering can.
    … this one is understandable but the next:

    Padají trakaře. = There are wheel barrows falling down.

  7. Ana_ñ says:

    That was funny!
    … And healthy: I have just been happily dancing around my desk for a few minutes. Thanks for a bit of morning exercise.

    And for the idioms, in Spanish we have the same “Llover a cántaros”. Also “Llover a mares” (mares = seas) and “Caer chuzos” or even more intense “Caer chuzos de punta” (chuzo = 1. spiked stick, pike; 2. icicle)

    I have enjoyed all the differences and similarities. Raining pointed things and containers seems to be relatively common, as well as pissing. But “raining old women” is fantastic!

  8. Lilaine says:

    A cute little French joke about the rain (la pluie) :
    Mama Cloud and kid Cloud are wandering in the sky, when kid Cloud moves away.
    “Ou vas-tu, Touffu ? (Where are you going, Fluffy ?)” Mama says.
    “Je vais faire pluie-pluie (I’m going to do a pee-pee(pipi in French))”.

  9. Inês says:

    Similarly to “chove a cântaros”, in Portugal we also have the most common for me: “chove a potes”. Actually I never heard any of the other two in the text 🙂

    • oregon expat says:

      Have you heard of “barba do sapo”? I just found that one, but my wife was unaware of it. I think “it’s raining toad beards” definitely scores on the original scale.

  10. Gitte says:

    In German
    “Es regnet Bindfäden” – it`s raining strings
    “Es schüttet wie aus Kübeln” – it´s pouring from buckets

  11. Inge says:

    I found this page, with a lot of saying of raining hard:

    Especially like the norwegian: it’s raining female trolls. lol

    • Lilaine says:

      Did you see the welsh saying ?
      “it’s raining old ladies and sticks”
      It seems the Celtic People did travel far all over the World…

      And then, I can think of a possible origin for this idiom : There were not only heavy rain but strong winds, too, that blew the frail old ladies and their canes in the sky, to fall back down later …

    • Ana_ñ says:

      I am inclined to think that these flying women sometimes got very scared or angry and, under special circumstances, the terminal speed of the falling resulting product could account for the cracking of a windshield.

  12. JMG says:

    Even though the expressions “Está chovendo a canivetes,” and “Está chovendo a cântaros” are perfectly correct, I don’t believe that’s the way a Portuguese (certainly not a Portuguese from the region where I live) would formulate them: they would rather say “Está a chover a canivetes,” and “Está a chover a cântaros”. That formulation you use is however the standard for Brazil. I hope your wife can confirm this.

    • oregon expat says:

      I’ve consulted my wife, who confirms that indeed you are correct for much of Portugal — but here in the Algarve, the gerund form (chovendo) is frequently used. Apparently we’re different down south.

  13. Ze says:

    Not a different language – just a different version (British English) but I say (as did my parents and theirs before them)

    “It’s coming down in stair-rods.”

    But then – I’m (just) old enough to remember what stair-rods were… *g*

    • oregon expat says:

      I’m apparently not — had to look it up. But upon seeing a photo I recognized them, so perhaps I’m of an age after all.

    • Lilaine says:

      Oooh, I got it !
      That was a Flying Kick-ass Grandma who cracked the windshield, trying to fend off attackers, at terminal speed, with a stair-rod !
      This one is for Ana_~n (sorry, don’t have the n tilde on french keyboard) 😀

      • Ana_ñ says:

        >This one is for Ana_~n (sorry, don’t have the n tilde on french keyboard) 😀

        Alors là, chère Lilaine, you may choose to write Ana_gn 🙂

        • Lilaine says:

          Chère Ana_ñ

          Ah, la magie du “copier-coller” !! 😀
          (I could have thought about it sooner, silly me !! gneu…! 😉 )

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