[Ads-l] rain = clients (that bring in revenue)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jul 16 14:49:02 UTC 2018

I’m familiar with “rainmaker” in the metaphorical sense from TV legal dramas, perhaps back to L.A. Law; I wouldn’t have guessed it went back to the 19th c. Looking at the OED cites for the literal uses, I’m wondering if the earliest literal occurrences of the compound were calques from an indigenous language…

a. A person (esp. a member of a tribal community) who is credited with having the power to cause rain by supernatural means.

1775   J. Adair Hist. Amer. Indians 89   The old women were less honest in paying their rain-makers.
1822   J. Campbell Trav. S. Afr.: Narr. 2nd Journey I. 110   A rain-maker is not esteemed in his own country, he must be brought from a distance.
1847   G. F. Angas Savage Life & Scenes I. 59   The green bough being symbolical of his situation, according to the ‘rain-makers’ or wise old men.
1890   J. G. Frazer Golden Bough I. i. 13   The third, who was called ‘the rain-maker’, had a bunch of twigs with which he sprinkled water from a vessel.

b. A person who causes or attempts to cause rain to fall by technological means, (in later use) esp. by seeding clouds.

1839   Indiana Jrnl. 13 Apr. 1/6   Mr. Espy, the Rainmaker... The efforts of Mr. Espy to manufacture rain storms, are affording food for legislative action.
1841   Fayetteville (N. Carolina) Observer 14 July 1/6   Mr. Espy, the Rain-maker, is in Boston and seems to be under the protection of our excellent contemporary of the Atlas.
1891   Manufacturer & Builder Sept. 208/2   Applying these elementary facts to the work of the rain-makers, it must be apparent that if there be any efficacy in the violent concussion of the air, it must be confined to a very limited area.

> On Jul 16, 2018, at 3:02 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> Appears to be a kind of back-formation from "rainmaker." OED3 has the
> relevant sense:
> ----
> 4. fig. Business (orig. U.S.). A person who generates business or income
> for a company or organization, esp. by attracting clients.
> 1897   Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Jrnl. 8 Dec. 4/2   He does not make any
> special exhibit of his financial rain maker, Mr. Wolcott.
> 1971   Washington Post 16 May b3/1   'He was mostly a rainmaker,' the kind
> of legal agent who makes things happen.
> 1989   Toronto Star (Nexis) 26 Mar. f2   These are the rainmakers who are
> leaving. These are the guys who bring in the business.
> 1999   N.Y. Mag. 20 Sept. 32/3   A Democratic rainmaker who raised $1.5
> million for Democratic candidates.
> 2002   P. Augar & J. Palmer Rise Player Manager xiii. 286   Heroes in the
> professions are those in the front line: the star barristers, the
> rainmakers in corporate finance, the creatives in advertising.
> ----
> On Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 2:57 AM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> In Pachinko (https://bit.ly/2NQjpSa <https://bit.ly/2NQjpSa>), published
>> last year, Min Jin Lee writes:
>> At Travis, Kazu made lot of rain. Five of the six most important banking
>> deals last year took place because Kazu had made them happen.
>> Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rain <
>> https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rain>), the OLD (https://en.
>> oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rain <https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/
>> definition/rain>), Dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/
>> browse/rain?s=t <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/rain?s=t>) and
>> Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rain <
>> https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rain>) do not have this
>> meaning, though the meaning of a lot of something (such as a rain of blows)
>> is provided.
>> On Urban Dictionary,
>> hardtobody (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=rain&page=4 <
>> https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=rain&page=4>) writes:
>> money. i call money rain due to the term "make it rain". so money is now
>> called rain.
>> This “make it rain” refers to throwing money up in the air so it floats
>> back down around you. That meaning is mentioned by other people on Urban
>> Dictionary, too.
>> It’s not clear to me whether the two meanings are related, but it is
>> possible.
>> Either way, Lee’s meaning is common:
>> The New York Times
>> 21 May 1996
>> https://nyti.ms/2uqPms5 <https://nyti.ms/2uqPms5>
>> Title: Women Striving To Make It Rain At Law Firms;Bringing in Business is
>> the Best Path to Partnership
>> Jack Flack
>> Dealbook/The New York Times
>> Parsing Rubin: The Exit Memo
>> 21 January 2009
>> https://nyti.ms/2us4tl0 <https://nyti.ms/2us4tl0>
>> Rubin: My other role, working with clients and other Citi relationships
>> here and abroad, gave me a keen appreciation of the important place Citi
>> has in the global financial system and global economy.
>> Translation: I made lots of rain, and I wish somebody would do the math on
>> the return on investment on the $126 million I got paid.
>> Eric Picard
>> AdExchanger
>> How Microsoft Almost Won Digital Advertising
>> 8 July 2015
>> https://bit.ly/2NehyW0 <https://bit.ly/2NehyW0>
>> Obviously Google made lots of rain with the DoubleClick platform as well -
>> but given that there are other examples (Rubicon, Casale, OpenX, AppNexus)
>> yes, Microsoft certainly could have done it.
>> Mike O'Horo
>> Orange County Attorney Journal
>> 31 October 2015
>> https://bit.ly/2upj2Wv <https://bit.ly/2upj2Wv>
>> Worse, there’s a whole generation of lawyers who made lots of rain for a
>> long time without ever learning how to do it.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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