Raining cats and dogs

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 24 19:36:49 UTC 2005

At 1:51 PM -0500 1/24/05, Barnhart wrote:
>American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on Monday, January 24,
>2005 at 1:24 PM -0500 wrote:
>>The saying it's raining cats and dogs was first noted in the 17th
>>century, not the 16th.
>1738 Swift _A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation_

Swift's _Polite Conversation_, as it's usually called, was evidently
begun about 1704 or so, but first published in 1738 (official catchy
title:  _A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation,
According to the Most Polite Mode and Method Now used at Court, and
in the Best Companies of England_, published under the byline of
Simon Wagstaff, Esq.)

FWIW, in my edition, OUP 1963, commentator Eric Partridge notes under
the relevant line--

LORD SPARKISH. Nay, I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it
would rain Cats and Dogs.

--that "rain Cats and Dogs" for 'rain violently' is attested
"probably since c. 1600" (p. 155), although he doesn't give any
further cites.

A bit earlier in the same Dialogue II in _Polite conversation_, Swift
offers his own retelling of the much-purveyed etymythology for
"sirloin" (actually < Fr. sur 'over' + loin):

MISS NOTABLE.   But pray, why is it called a Sirloyn?
LORD SPARKISH. Why, you must know that our King James I. who loved
good Eating, being invited to Dinner by one of his Nobles, and seeing
a large Loyn of Beef at his Table; he drew out his Sword, and in a
Frolick Knighted it.  Few People know the Secret of this.
(p. 124)


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