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.