Blimey, it’s hailing cats and dogs

One of the great myths of the English language is that we say it is raining cats and dogs. We do not. We never say that. It isn’t true.

Gravure_de_pluie_de_poissonsHowever, yesterday during the morning lesson it did hail a bit cats and dogs, if you know what I mean. Fahad, one of our Omani majors, couldn’t resist the temptation to make a short documentary film.

We don’t really know what to say about hail, except to reference its size (size of golfballs is popular). All I could think to say, since it was so near lunchtime, was ah, great.


In my early days as a teacher I was told by a student, an Italian woman of elementary level, that English was a very inexpressive language. I asked what she meant, and she told me (necessarily in Italian) that in English we speak only in pre-formed idioms (cats and dogs; Great Scott!) whereas in Italian they just speak from the heart.

It was hard to know where to begin with that. I think I suggested that she might not yet have accessed the full expressive range of the language. That, if you discount languages such as German where compounding of words renders the lexicon infinite and a total word count meaningless, then English speakers by and large have a working vocabulary greater than speakers of any other language, as well as a word bank dwarfing all others.

It was a fruitless discussion. I was new to teaching, and it would take me a long time to realise that people (other people I mean, not me) were hopelessly wedded to the belief that their language was both preposterously hard to master and capable of endless minute expressive distinctions. And that the language they were learning was a bit, well, cats and dogs.

So now I let such comments slide. I just remind students that we never say cats and dogs, that if it’s rodding down we will probably just say it’s good for the garden; and that in the event of hail (more predicted today) blimey covers most eventualities.




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