A chance comment to a student this morning got me thinking about those difficult colloquialisms that English speakers love using and that are a source of great confusion for anyone who is not a mother tongue speaker.
Looking out of the window at the pouring rain, I said, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” She looked at me in surprise, brow furrowing, and repeated, “Cats and dogs?” A quick explanation brought a smile to her face. “Ah…” she said, and in Italian, “raining buckets”. (Surprisingly similar to the phrase “bucketing down”, don’t you think?)
I wondered where the saying came from and did a quick Google search. It’s not really clear, but one of the most likely explanations relates to conditions in the cities and sewers. Heavy rain would have flushed out the bodies of cats and dogs from the sewers, allowing them to flow through the city with the water. I found that out here: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/raining%20cats%20and%20dogs.html.
I remember a particular English lesson from my youth where we were asked to draw literal illustrations of a number of colloquialisms. Obviously, we vied each other to find the most hilarious ones. Here are some of my favourites:
She laughed her head off. Oh, there goes her head, rolling down the street.
I’m all fingers and thumbs. Imagine how hard life would be if this were really true!
My new car cost an arm and a leg. Uh-oh! You’re going to find it really hard to drive then!
I just said hello and he bit my head off. Creates a graphically violent picture!
She cut off her nose to spite her face. More violence here!
I got the news straight from the horse’s mouth. Picture my surprise when the horse told me the news!
What’s your favourite colloquialism, and why? Artists are welcome to draw their response and link to it in my comments.
Apology: Please excuse the attempt to link to another site. I can’t get the “add link” button to work, so you’ll just have to copy and paste into your browser if you want to go to the site I used. Enjoy!