Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Language of Weather

The language of weather.
“Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it”
This is a quote that Americans attribute to Mark Twain, although of course he was not the person who said it and I cannot discover who did. However that is less important than a few other idioms and sayings that English uses about weather.
For instance, right now outside my house, “It's raining cats and dogs”. (Meanwhile any actual cats and dogs who live in the neighbourhood, are inside given half a chance!)
“Nice weather for ducks” people often say, although I am not really sure that real ducks like rain. I have never asked one, (who has?) but they never seem very happy to me.
We have various ways of expressing that we are (or that the weather is) cold, and here are some of them:
“It's brass monkeys out there!” (that expression originated from “it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey”, which may or not actually refer in turn, to a rack used to hold cannonballs on a sailing ship.)
“It's 'colder than a witch's tit”, or simply “it's freezing” show that we say 'it is' to refer to the weather.
What is the 'it' we mean? It's just the climate in which we are at the time. “it” can be sunny, cold, wet or cool.
We say “ the heavens open ” to talk about sudden, heavy rain - and my English cousin used to say “it's raining stair-rods” to say the same thing. There are those “cats and dogs' again!
Then there are the expressions that use different types of weather as metaphors or similes. Some
examples are:
(There is a ) cloud on the horizon - although at the moment, all is well, a problem or difficulty lies ahead and is becoming evident.
Face like thunder - someone with a 'face like thunder' looks extremely angry.
(To) keep one's head above water - means to have just enough money to live.
The lull before the storm - a period of calm before an expected flurry of activity or danger.
Rainy day - If you save something, especially money, for a rainy day, you save it for some possible problem or trouble in the future.
To be under the weather - means that someone is ill.
A storm is brewing - this refers to tensions between people or nations, and the belief of the speaker that something unpleasant is about to happen.
A storm in a teacup - someone is making much more of a situation than is necessary.
Make hay while the sun shines - take advantage of a favourable situation while you can.
I am snowed under - I have too much to do!
Sunny - someone who is sunny, has a very happy and pleasant manner.
(To) weather the storm - to survive a difficult situation.
There's more of course. Please ask about any weather-related idioms you come across, and as
always, add them to your vocabulary notebook.


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  2. Your piece of writing is very interesting as well as amusing. I cannot help mentioning some of your idioms while describing the situation here in Salento. It's has been raining cats and dogs for 4 hours and I can't wait to see the sun shining again. So now here it's nice weather for ducks even though I had got a duck some years ago and when the weather was bad, when it rained, she used to ran to take shelter from water squawking as if gone mad. What else? All of your idioms are great! For instance now I am a bit under the weather because I caught a bad cold but I promise, I will recover soon. Have a great night! Gianluca.

  3. You had a pet duck? Wow... Fantastic - thanks for answering my question about their attitude to rain...

  4. Yes, I had got a pet duck many years ago when I was just 8 or 9 years old and she was a wonderful little pest. I liked watching her running about in my backyard. She was so lovely!

  5. A pet duck... That's the first I have ever heard of!