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Culture Smart: Is the Rain in Spain the Same?

by Sheron Long on January 27, 2014

Dark clouds and a downpour, prompting colorful rain sayings in different languages. (image © Gregor Kervina / Hemera)

What do you say to describe a drencher?
© Gregor Kervina / Hemera

Rain Sayings in Different Languages

The one thing about rain is that it’s wet! All over the world.  But apart from that essential characteristic, the different languages of the world have found varied ways to describe rain, especially when it’s a gully washer.

Bucketloads of Wet

In Spain, a heavy rain comes down a cántaros (in jugfuls).  In a number of other countries—Finland, Romania, and Russia, for example—it “rains like from a bucket.”

Barrel with water pouring out, illustrating the use of containers in rain sayings from different languages. (Image © Dawn Hudson / iStock)

Buckets, jugs, basins, and barrels all figure into rain sayings around the world.
© Dawn Hudson / iStock

Not sure if the eye of the Spaniard envisions a heavier rain than the eye of the Russian, but either analogy works—water comes pouring out of both jugs and buckets.

A bit harder to picture are solid objects falling from the sky. In Czechoslovakia, it rains wheelbarrows. (Yikes! That could hurt.) And wheelbarrows are an odd shape, but maybe, like buckets and jugs, these gardening containers can spill a flood of water.

It’s easier to picture the language metaphor when the object is at least vertical, the way rain falls:

  • In Greece, it rains chair legs.
  • In Wales, knives and forks.
  • Long strings of rope in Turkey.
  • Threads and strings in Germany.
  • Pitchforks in Britain and pipe stems in Holland.

When Rain Gets Legs

Sometimes a deluge takes on a life of its own, and animal metaphors creep into the description.

For example, the Americans and the French, who have ties of friendship going back centuries, both see four legs in the rain. Nevertheless, they have different views of what stands on those legs.

  • In the USA, it rains cats and dogs.
  • In France, il pleut des grenouilles (it rains frogs).
Graphic pattern of silhouetted cats, dogs, and umbrellas, symbolizing rain sayings from different languages (© Bruce Rolff / Hemera)

Rainy weather patterns in the USA speak of cats and dogs.
© Bruce Rolff / Hemera

Frog rain is a true phenomenon. Lightweight animals can get picked up in a storm and sent back to earth with the rain. That probably explains the Brazilian expression Chovem cobras e lagartos (It’s raining snakes and lizards), but it doesn’t help much with why it rains “toads’ beards” in Portugal.

Reptiles and amphibians are not the highest life form associated with a heavy rain. Two-leggers play a role as well:

  • In Norway, a drencher comes with she-trolls.
  • The Welsh see old ladies and sticks.
  • And I wonder if Colombian women smile during a downpour. There, it rains hasta maridos (even husbands)!

More than One Way to Talk Rain

Of course, most languages offer more than one way to refer to a downpour. Though the French, like the Poles, describe some storms as raining frogs, the French also talk about wet weather as raining ropes, like the Turks, or buckets, like the Finns.

Frog holding an umbrella, symbolizing the use of frogs in rain sayings from different languages. (Image © julos / iStock)

Advice for frogs:
Better to raise the umbrella
than to get raised in the rain.
© julos / iStock

So it seems that some rain sayings go across cultures. Costa Rica even borrowed the cats and dogs saying from the US, but in Spanish the dogs get first billing: Están lloviendo perros y gatos (It’s raining dogs and cats).

The next time a heavy rainstorm comes your way, borrow some colorful rain sayings from the world and share the creative words of different languages. You’ll be anything but all wet!

Find more weather idioms and other sayings across cultures at Omniglot and Wikipedia.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


6 thoughts on “Culture Smart: Is the Rain in Spain the Same?

  1. In New Zealand and Australia I have heard it said, “Its pissing down”, or more politely, “Its persisting down”, in either case you would need an umbrella.

  2. Sorry to disappoint you but German “es regnet Schusterjungen” does not refer to “two-leggers” … The expression doesn’t translate as “it’s raining cobbler boys” but “it’s raining bread rolls.” Both “Schusterjunge” for “bread roll” and the expression “es regnet Schusterjungen” only seem to occur in the Berlin dialect. An image of a “Schusterjunge” can be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schusterjunge.JPG

  3. What fun! I wonder if there is any significance to the distinction between expressions of how rain feels versus appears. BTW, you meant “Colombian,” not “Columbian.”

    • Thanks for the heads up on Colombia–of course and now updated! What expressions do you know for how rain feels? I’ll look into that, too.

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