rain cats and dogs

Why do we say that?

It’s a question that English language learners have often asked me. I’m not always sure of the answers, but I’m always curious to find out.

In any language, idioms roll off our tongues. They’re the phrases we can’t take literally. Can you imagine if it were really raining cats and dogs? How about chair legs, as it might in Greece?  Or cobblers knives, as in Irish Gaelic? Sounds dangerous to me! (You can find translations of raining cats and dogs at this excellent Omniglot page.)

When I was teaching English conversation, I started jotting down the different English idioms we wondered about. And in 2010, I started this blog.

About English Idioms examines:

What idioms mean – the phrases’ definitions

How we use them – their common uses in English, with examples

Where they came from – their origin, or etymology

The origins of idioms is the tricky part! Often, there is no consensus on where a phrase came from or how old it is. There might be competing theories. For example, some believe mind your p’s and q’s comes from the printing trade. Others think the phrase comes from English pubs, with P and Q standing for Pints and Quarts. Who is right? We don’t know.


Who am I? My name in Joanne Mason and I’m an American freelance writer. I mainly write about health nowadays but I’ve long been interested in language. I worked with adult learners of English for years – as a tutor, conversation group leader, and assessor – for several community-based adult-education programs. I have a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics as well. (You can find my writing portfolio site here.)

Thanks for joining me here on About English Idioms! And if you have any idiom suggestions for future blog posts, please feel free to let me know at AboutEnglishIdioms [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also find the blog on Twitter and Facebook.