Friday, April 9, 2021

What on Earth Are We Saying? by Hannah Rowan #RomanceGems

Writers, of course, have an affinity for words and too much curiosity, which can send us spiraling down some weird mental pathways. So when my fellow Gems chose April showers as this month’s theme, “raining cats and dogs” immediately popped into my head.

What kind of crazy thing is that to say, anyway? Off I went on a Google search that informed me of two very disturbing situations. Apparently in 17th century England it sometimes rained so hard and so long that the bodies of dead animals, including cats and dogs, washed up in the streets. Ick! Then again, some people speculate that in a heavy rain the bodies of small animals washed out of the thatched roofs of the cottages, landing on the heads of the hapless inhabitants. Either way, I’d recommend umbrellas and boots.

While the British cling to the somewhat factual cats and dogs, people in other countries use different expressions to describe heavy rains.  The most common seems to be pouring buckets or being doused by a watering can, which is kind of boring but sensible.  The Cantonese, however, say it’s raining dog poo, no kidding! We should all probably stay away from that part of the world, or at least remember that umbrella.

Since we’re discussing the origins of expressions, and I’m sure most people never wonder these things at all, I’ll admit that while calling bingo at the assisted living facility where I work, I tend to say “by George, you’ve got it” when someone calls out the correct winning numbers. But one day someone wondered…who the heck is George?

Sure, Henry Higgins said that in My Fair Lady, but why? He couldn’t have been the first person to use that expression.

Inexplicably, “by George” is a battle cry uttered by soldiers before charging into battle, again originating in Britain.  Or if you believe other sources, “by George” is a substitute for saying “by God.” I’m not satisfied with either explanation.

Again with the bingo crowd, because bingo leads to deep thoughts, people who are off by just one number often bemoan the fact that they “almost” won. Inevitably someone else will comment that “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

Why? Naturally, I had to look it up.

Maybe I’m the last to know, but it seems in horseshoes as long as your horseshoe is close to the stake it doesn’t have to actually encircle the stake. Or the person closest to the stake wins. Or something.

The hand grenade thing is self-explanatory.

And by George, maybe I shouldn’t think so much.



  1. Quite informative. Raining dog poo!? I never knew that. And by George for some reason I though referred to a former King. Who knew? I did know about horseshoes. I used to play that with my brothers growing up. Thanks Hannah.

  2. Good information, I think... We use horseshoes and hand grenades a lot. It's one of those perfect descriptors. I always love your posts!

  3. I love the history of language also!! There are so many fun meanings of why we say things!

  4. I loved this post! History is always fun for me. Thanks Hannah!

  5. Love this post. I am one of those who searches out the meaning of phrases. Call me Curious George.

  6. This is great! I bet we could come up with a bunch more for you to look up.

  7. By George ...this was a fun post! And, you're closer to how we writers think than both horseshoes and hand grenades!

  8. This is so me! We even purchased a book once that explained a lot of common phrases and where they came from. I always find it interesting when there is a dispute over the origins of an idiom and like to weigh in on which I think is probably true. Frequently I say to myself, "I have to look that up when I get home," but then I forget. :( Thanks for sharing! I never knew the cats and dogs one...and I kind of wish I still didn't...but I'll be sure to share it with my hubby, who is also into words and how they were given birth. Thanks for sharing, Hannah!

  9. Hannah, I can always count on your for a laugh or two. Thanks. Loved your post.

  10. I've often wondered where things come from, and I found a book when I was shopping on the Strand in Galveston, and I didn't buy it! I've been kicking myself ever since. Loved the post!

  11. Wow, I'm happy I'm not the only one who wonders about this stuff.


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