Why is it raining cats and dogs?

In the spirit of April fools we are going to change our trivia from health related to simply fun. This week’s trivia will cover simple phrases from the English language that you may understand but not know the origin of.


Fit as a Fiddle

Meaning: This is used to describe someone who is in very good health.

Origin: In the early 17th century this phrase was first seen in English-men for my Money by Haughton William. Musical instruments were kept in excellent condition as they were handcrafted and expensive. If a person was in as good of shape as their fiddle, they were doing quite well.



Dead as a doornail

Meaning: To be void of life or useless.

Origin: As a means of defense against intruders that may raid your house or castle, people used to reinforce their wooden doors with doornails. A doornail would be hammered through the outside of the door and on the inside the nail would be bent sideways so it could not be pulled out. Once bent the nail could not be reused and was therefore useless.



To butter someone up

Meaning: To flatter or impress to gain favor.

Origin: This was a customary religious act in ancient India. The devout would throw butter balls at the statues of their gods to seek favor and forgiveness, butter was a rare/expensive commodity at the time.



White Elephant

Meaning: A gift that may be comical or not useful.

Origin: This expression originated in the English language in the 19th century. Rumor has it that a king of Siam, currently Thailand, would gift someone with a rare and expensive white elephant. The gift was for someone who had displeased him as maintaining a white elephant was costly and difficult. This would often cause the owners financial ruin, much to the enjoyment of the king who had gotten his revenge under the disguise of a seemingly harmless present.



It’s raining cats and dogs

Meaning: Extremely heavy rain; excessive downpour It’s raining very hard

Origin: It’s a popular phrase and there are many theories that are related to its origin, particularly, in England in the middle of 18th century. The sewer systems and drains at the time were very primitive and ineffective. Torrential downpours would then cause excessive floods which drowned the numerous stray cats and dogs that lived in the streets. Their bodies would float down the streets thus appearing as though they rained directly from the sky. Another possible origin is that the animals would try to climb to the top of houses to escape the flooding. During that time your typical homes would have had thatched roofs. These roofs could not sustain the weight of the animal and the animals would fall into the homes along with the rain. This would appear as though the animals had rained from the sky.


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