Cats, Dogs, Rats, Cabbages…

Yesterday it rained. And rained.   Guess I should be used to it after 37 years in the Pacific Northwest, but I admit to feeling a bit “under the weather,” literally.  The French say it another way: Avoir le cafard – “to have the cockroach” – in other words, to be down in the dumps They also say that to be depressed is to “grind the black” – broyer du noir.  Maybe the rain is making me grind a black cockroach, but I sure wish it would stop. Of course, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride….I wonder how the French say that? Outside, the drizzle has chased hummingbirds away from our new feeder; inside this afternoon, I gave up and turned on the heater, and I thought “May 3rd, for heaven’s sake, and it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Why would someone think “cats and dogs” when the rain comes down?  Where do these figures of speech come from? Did you know that in Spain, it doesn’t rain cats and dogs, it rains jugs? Esta lloviendo a cantaros!  In France, it rains ropes.  Odd.  Of course, in some places in America, it rains pitchforks. Odder still, but we just don’t think it’s quite as odd because we’re used to it. One of the wonderful things about studying another language is not only learning new idioms (did you know that while American women “give birth,” Mexican women “give light”?) but also hearing our own language in a fresh way.  And that’s what a writer need to do, too – hear his or her own language almost as if it were a foreign tongue.

My wish that the rain would go away is “pie in the sky” – unattainable – or, as the French say,   prendre la lune avec les dents – taking the moon with the teeth. One of these days, it’s going to stop raining and we’ll go straight from our in-like-a-lion days to the dog days of summer – lions and dogs, odd again – without ever seeing spring.  Rats! (or, as the Italians might say Cavolo! Cabbage!)

I guess I shouldn’t get too cranky about it – the rain, the deluge.  We tolerate, we get by little by little or in fits and starts or in bits and pieces or in – well – andiamo por singhiozzo – we go by hiccups. And it’s important, in Seattle to ponder what the Romans famously said: Nos poma natamus. We apples swim.  We are unsinkable.

Next time I write a poem, I might try to write about people who are like apples floating in water. Or I might write a poem where I sink my teeth into the moon. People ask me where I get my ideas. This is where. Cats, dogs, rats, cabbages, hiccups, the moon.  Language.

It’s Poetry Friday today, by the way, and Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader is hosting the round-up. Head over there to see what poems, thoughts about poetry, and links people have posted.

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6 responses to “Cats, Dogs, Rats, Cabbages…

  1. What a fun post! Living near Vancouver, B.C., I know whereof you speak. I agree, learning another language and its idioms, metaphors, and similes is a window into a whole way of thinking.

  2. And here, in Denver, it’s dry as a bone, which actually makes some sense, at least when it’s an old bone! Thank goodness, although it’s unusually warm, it’s still not hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalks. I love your post, Julie & wonder how many do find their poetry in these interesting sayings?

  3. Ellen L. Ramsey

    Love the “languages” of this post–raining jugs or pitchforks or ropes. Sometimes writing is like “taking the moon with the teeth.” But “we apples keep swimming!”

  4. Julie Paschkis

    I read this when you first posted it – while we were still grinding the black here. I had to come back and remind myself of the wonderful phrases. This time I noticed your list of tags which is entertaining on its own.
    Thanks for putting some summer words in the Spanish spring of rainy Seattle.

  5. Hi Julie! Fun post. Totally hear you on getting ideas from language (though that may not come as a surprise about me at this point). The world — and as you clearly call out, we really mean the WORLD — is full of words, phrases, definitions, connotations, etc. that can keep poets’ brains spinning in endless loops.

  6. Love this post, Julie! I am forever entertained by the idioms I learn in Italian, and by comparing them to the English versions. Years ago, when my husband’s English wasn’t as polished as it is now, he said “When there is not the cat, the mouse dance.” And that’s how I learned that Italian mice dance instead of merely play!

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