Dear Tom,
I have always wondered where the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs”, comes from. Do you know?
Katherine F., Lombard

Dear Katherine,

Among several explanations for this saying, a more popular version is that in mythological tales prevalent across northern Europe long ago, cats and dogs were believed to be associated with the weather. It was commonly thought that they were able to influence the weather or even cause it. The dog was the symbol of the wind in many areas, and the wind is often pictured in old German drawings as originating with the breath of a dog. English sailors attributed gales and violent rainstorms to cats. The mythology thus brought together the varied associations of wind, gales, rain and cats and dogs. It all came to be incorporated into a single enduring expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Another old saying: “Under the weather.” It means feeling unwell, and it is a nautical term from the old days of sailing ships. A sailor who was feeling ill would be sent below deck to protect him from the weather. The sailor would literally be under the weather because he would be below deck.

Another old expression: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning” is actually based on sound observation. Since weather in mid and high latitudes usually moves from west to east, a red sky in the evening means the setting sun is shining on the underside of clouds that are overhead suggesting “fair skies and following seas” to the west. Conversely, a red sunrise suggests fair weather has already passed with clouds and stormy weather approaching from the west.