Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Episode 48: When It Rains It Pours Transcript

Click on “Read More” for the full transcript.

We used Temi to auto transcribe this, then Dan went through and checked it based on the show notes. He tried really hard on it, but this kind of stuff isn't his specialty. So if you notice anything confusing, please comment on this post so Dan can look at it and clarify anything.

Shauna:                               00:00                    Welcome to bunny trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. I'm Shauna Harrison
Dan:                                     00:05                    and I'm Dan Pugh. Each week we delve into the origin and history of an idiom or other turn of phrase and discuss how it's been used over time. This week it's raining. Just like last week. And the week before. In fact, the entire Midwest United States feels like it's just floating away, which of course got me thinking of rain idioms. So we've already done raining cats and dogs and we've done rain check. But this week I wanted to explore the phrase when it rains it pours. So from our friends at Merriam Webster, when it rains, it pours is "used to say that when something bad happens, other bad things usually happen at the same time."
Dan:                                     00:48                    And I will note that this is an American English form of the phrase. There's also a British English form of the phrase as well. It never rains, but it pours. And for that one, the Oxford English dictionary defines it as "events of a particular kind (especially misfortunes) tend to occur at the same time or in rapid succession."
Dan:                                     01:09                    So kind of overall this is misfortunes seldom happen alone.
Shauna:                               01:15                    Yeah. That's like kind of a common theme for, for people, humans in general.
Dan:                                     01:22                    It's funny you say that because Swedish has a similar phrase and Russian has a similar phrase, and German has a similar phrase. There are many languages that have some sort of a phrase about the concept that either like misery loves company or when bad things happen, they overwhelm, that misfortune seldom happens alone. Things over and over and over again. So, and in this case, we're specifically talking about, it seems that when one thing happens, others tend to pile on a, it never rains, but it pours is the original usage of this phrase. And it was first attested in 1700 by Edward Ward in A Step to the Bath, with Character of the Place. So this is in 1700 "the next morning I received a letter of advice from London of the death of an aunt who has made me her air, which put me in mind of the old proverb. It never rains, but must pour."
Shauna:                               02:18                    Hmm.
Dan:                                     02:19                    So, even in the 17 hundreds, like specifically 1700, Edward Ward says that this is an old proverb, but this is the first time we see it attested in print anywhere.
Shauna:                               02:29                    That's really interesting.
Dan:                                     02:30                    Yeah. In fact, most of the time I see it first attested. It's actually with doctor John Artbuthnot, which he attested in a book that he wrote called It Cannot Rain, But It Pours. And that was in 1726. And so, uh, Dr John Artbuthnot though was a Scottish physician and writer and tradition holds that he successfully treated Queen Anne's husband, the Prince George of Denmark. And when the prince recovered, the queen invited Doctor Artbuthnot, to serve on the royal court to serve the royal family.
Shauna:                               03:03                    Huh.
Dan:                                     03:04                    Yeah. Tradition also holds that he inspired Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's travels book three. So that's just a bit of...
Shauna:                               03:11                    That's kind of cool
Dan:                                     03:11                    ...random trivia for you. In fact, Jonathan Swift also put out a paper, uh, later that same year with roughly the same name and other play on when it rains it pours as the title of his paper.
Shauna:                               03:22                    Okay. So I actually, I don't know exactly what Prince George of Denmark was suffering from, but I, I kind of in the back of my mind have an idea and, and I, I'm not sure it was something curable.
Dan:                                     03:37                    I have no idea.
Shauna:                               03:38                    But I'm, I'm going to have to research that now cause it's picking up my brain.
Dan:                                     03:42                    Well, feel free. I didn't go that deep into Prince George's affliction.
Shauna:                               03:48                    Okay. So though 1726, he titled His book this. So that tells me, I mean, people would, would kind of have an idea of what it means, right? Or he wouldn't use it as the title or ...
Dan:                                     03:59                    I think... In 1700... when they said it was an old proverb tells us that yes, by 1726, it's still an old one.
Shauna:                               04:07                    So well known old proverb. Okay. <Laughter>
Dan:                                     04:10                    So let's, uh, let's fast forward from the mid 17 hundreds to the mid 18 hundreds. And I saw a particular usage in an 1844 novel, The Cabin Book or Sketches of Life in Texas. And this is by Charles Sealsfield. Uh, interesting. The books have it misprinted they say by Seatsfield, but his name is actually Sealsfield, which I noticed from the University of North Texas article on this particular book.
Shauna:                               04:37                    Huh. That's kinda cool.
Dan:                                     04:39                    Yeah. So this is a historical novel about the creation of the Republic of Texas. And it consists of a series of sketches that depict the New Republic of Texas as a land of opportunity for immigrants. "Our Proverbs says," this is a quote, so I'm quoting it here in the book, it says, "our proverb says it never is cold, but it freezes. It never is warm but hot. It never rains, but it pours. This is true of our climate and of our national character. Our people do not like to do things by halves if they want something, they want it wholly."
Dan:                                     05:14                    Now this is translated from a German, the book was actually written in German and this was translated by a Professor Mersch, uh, shortly after it was written. And that may be why we see the, the particular grouping of those idioms all together. That all kind of mean the same thing. And I could not find any evidence anywhere that this is the, uh, a larger idiom and we are only getting the last part of it. It never rains but it pours.
Shauna:                               05:38                    oh, so like maybe it never rains, but it pours is a rejoinder to the rest of the...
Dan:                                     05:41                    Is part of the larger one? Yeah. I can't find, this is the literally the only place this one book in this translation of this book.
Shauna:                               05:49                    Oh Wow.
Dan:                                     05:49                    Where I see this full, you know, it never, it's never cold, but it freezes. It's never worn, but it's hot and it never rains, but it pours.
Shauna:                               05:57                    That's interesting. Uh, but definitely hit the nail on the head with, uh, with our country. And there are people,
Dan:                                     06:03                    oh, this is the Republican Texas, not the United States they were talking about.
Shauna:                               06:07                    Fair enough. Uh, yeah, but not doing things by halves.
Dan:                                     06:12                    Yeah. Texas is the Texas of the United States though, so... And the United States is the Texas of the rest of the world. So...
Shauna:                               06:19                    Hmm...
Dan:                                     06:19                    All right. January, 1855 in an edition of the American Cotton Planter out of Montgomery, Alabama. "This being a principal there from trial where the earth will freeze to the depth of plowing. Why is it that in the south and southwest where 'when it rains, it pours', that writers are found to recommend fall and winter plowing? Is it a blind following of eastern practice?"
Dan:                                     06:45                    So here we see it used and they put in quotations, When it rains it pours, using it as a turn of phrase specifically of itself with of course no explanation at all. So the folks of the southern United States would probably know what that is. Um, at that point.
Shauna:                               07:03                    In fact, I would think the, in this case it was specifically put in quotations because they were talking about weather and harvest and otherwise may not have even put it in quotations.
Dan:                                     07:14                    Yes. And 1863 in the Ladies' Repositories Volume 23 an article spoke about Little Rock, Arkansas circa 1844 and he writes, t"he climate is mild and pleasant except when it rains, when it rains, it pours and the water does not run on the ground. It stands."
Shauna:                               07:34                    That is exactly what we're experiencing around here right now.
Dan:                                     07:37                    It really is.
Shauna:                               07:38                    Like, I think you said something about it being washed away and uh, yeah, that's, that's totally what it's like. It's like a whole, sometimes entire streets are like, you know, cars and buildings, whatever. They're just floating away.
Dan:                                     07:51                    Oh yeah. All right. So we start to see a transition in the late 18 hundreds where we're using it just as descriptors and we start seeing it in advertisements. May 9th, 1890 in the edition of the red cloud chief out of red cloud, Nebraska, there is an article for R.M. Martin and Son, and that is a, um, grocery type store. And, uh, so it says "when it rains, it pours, the bottom is washed out on dry goods."
Dan:                                     08:17                    And so it's talking about prices being, you know, way down low and all nice clean dry goods. No shelf worn. Uh, so anyway, this was, uh, the, you know, they're just using their play on words as an advertisement.
Shauna:                               08:30                    Yeah.
Dan:                                     08:31                    And then in another example of this is in 1911 out of Marion, Kentucky, uh, the December 21st edition of the Crittendon record press. And this is from an advertisement for Taylor and Canaan. "When it rains, it pours. And when we cut prices, we cut them deep."
Dan:                                     08:50                    This is a clothing company as specifically looks like suits and fancy clothes. Although in 1911 I think that's all they wore with fancy clothes.
Shauna:                               08:58                    Yeah.
Dan:                                     08:58                    As we would call them now
Shauna:                               09:00                    there's a gentleman in a nice trench coat with a, with a roller derby hat. Yeah.
Dan:                                     09:04                    Yeah. So anyway, that's so they're using it there again. And I would say that I think, uh, as far as both advertisements go, but also a boost in the use of the phrase happened around 1914 and this is thanks to the Morton Salt Company. So you may recognize the company's logo. It's a young girl holding an umbrella and she's walking in the rain. Now what does that have to do with salt? You might ask, well, prior to 1911, so salt was primarily sold as a raw ingredient. Raw Salt is coarse grain and it becomes clumpy in damp or humid environments. So the Morton salt company combined smaller grains of salt with an anti caking agent, then magnesium carbonate, to create a salt that would not clump and thus poured well even in damp conditions. So in 1914, the company launched an ad campaign featuring the little girl along with the phrase, when it rains, it pours as a play on when it rains outside the salt pours, which...
Shauna:                               10:09                    That's really clever,
Dan:                                     10:10                    which would be a, um, a very interesting thing. And one thing you might not notice about the little girl, uh, and the umbrella is that she's holding the little canister and she's holding it sideways and the salt is just pouring behind her as she walks. So you see the salt pouring out as she's walking.
Shauna:                               10:28                    I think it's really cool ads like this because it's such an iconic image that, you know, I think generally people in this, at least in the United States, if they see that, that they, they immediately know what it is. There's no question that's,
Dan:                                     10:41                    yeah, exactly. That's really the filed for the trademark on this December 14th, 1914.
Shauna:                               10:46                    Oh Wow.
Dan:                                     10:47                    So they've had that trademark, the trademark being the phrase when it rains it pours along with the use of the image itself.
Shauna:                               10:56                    Oh Wow. Are there that like their color scheme cause that yellow and blue always makes me think of of rain too for whatever reason. I don't know if it's that or just,
Dan:                                     11:04                    I don't know. So I saw the image that they had. I saw the image they had when they for the filing and it was, it was not in color the filing. So I don't know if that was a, because they didn't have the capability to do color Imaging, um, for the trademark process, you know, to take it from whatever they had into put into archiving it.
Shauna:                               11:25                    Right. Yeah.
Dan:                                     11:25                    So I don't know if that's what if that, if it wasn't a color or if maybe originally it wasn't in color and it only became the, you know, the yellow color and blue that we know later too, because they don't have, they don't still hold the trademark on this. They didn't renew it. And so they've, they've upgraded it. They have trademarks for different phrases and different uses of it. So when it rains we pour and that kind of thing. But um, yeah, so it's very interesting. Also note that now it is calcium silicate that is used as the anti caking agent instead of magnesium carbonate.
Shauna:                               11:57                    Gotcha.
Dan:                                     11:58                    So while some would say that this is the origin of the phrase, uh, and I did find several articles that tried to assert that this is where this came from or this is where this was popularized. Uh, we already know it was described as an old proverb in 1700 and we saw many, many examples of it being used in general public consciousness long before the Morton salt company hired an ad company to come up with this. Brilliant turn of phrase.
Shauna:                               12:28                    Today's show is sponsored by our patrons on Patreon. You make bunny trails possible. We'd like to thank all of our patrons and especially our log of morphology interns, Charlie Moore, Pat Rohe and Mary Halsig is a subscription service that allows you to support content creators you love. It's free to sign up and follow along. If you are in a financial situation that allows for monetary support, you can get additional perks for as little as $1 a month. Features like early access to episodes behind the scenes content, bonus episodes and more are all available at
Dan:                                     13:06                    All right, so moving into a little bit more modern times. August 24th, 2015 there was a Huffington post article called when it rains, it pours 50 more picture books from a stellar 2015. Now I, I use, this one as an example because many of the, when it rains it pours examples we saw before, we're predominantly negative. However, it does not have to be used that way. And even the Oxford English dictionary mentioned, uh, especially negative or especially, you know, in the unfortunate side of the house misfortune, right? But that is not always the way it's used. So in this Huffington post article by Minh Le, who is a children's author and an early childhood policy analyst, uh, he says, "as far as I'm concerned, 2015 could have closed up shop months ago and it still would have been a landmark year for picture books. Back in February I said that this year may well prove to be a high water mark for picture books. However, there was no guarantee that the year would continue its torrid pace, but apparently when it rains, it pours because much to my delight wave after wave of great books has continued to roll in. As a result, this year's quality of books is matched only by it's unfathomable depths."
Shauna:                               14:23                    Huh.
Dan:                                     14:23                    Which he sticks with the water, uh, theme the whole way. So way to go, not mixing your metaphors there.
Shauna:                               14:31                    I really like that. That's, I like that. It's a happy, happy story there.
Dan:                                     14:35                    Yeah. And he also goes on to use, uh, then list 50 top picture books from 2015 in an article he wrote in August of that same year. So like...
Shauna:                               14:44                    That is a lot of picture books.
Dan:                                     14:45                    That's many of them already. Yeah. Uh, there's also a book that was released in 2015 called When It Rains, It Pours by Ron Wilson, Jr published by Columbia Press. The synopsis goes, "Carla Mae Long wanted to be the perfect mother, but the course of her life would prevent that. Growing up with a harsh mother and troublesome siblings made Carla's life difficult from the beginning. Enduring blow after blow, she fights to keep her head held high throughout every struggle. Will she ever become the wife and mother she always wanted to be? This whirlwind story follows Carla's difficulties and the adventures of her four children: Darren-the strong one Melvin-smart and sensitive Shonda-the lone female Derrick-young and temperamental This is the story of a family born and raised in the streets of Cleveland. As you follow their saga you'll soon discover-behind every problem there are always a hundred more. When It Rains It Pours!
Shauna:                               15:40                    Huh.
Dan:                                     15:42                    Now I did want, I wanted to ask you about this. Um, does that from, from a woman's standpoint, the fact that they gave in the synopsis, all of the boys specific attributes, but then Shonda they just called her the lone female. Does that, does that description of the lone female give you some sort of personality trait that I'm not aware of?
Shauna:                               16:09                    Um, I think that traditionally it would... It would tend to suggest that, uh, Shonda would be a very strong character, probably confident and you know, having to stand up to the boys in the group.
Dan:                                     16:26                    Gotcha.
Shauna:                               16:26                    Um, yeah, that's, I mean generally I think that's kind of how that's how that's a described. It maybe she, she may be the opposite. I don't know. But I do think it's an intriguing story as it went on. It sounded better as the synopsis continues.
Dan:                                     16:40                    Yes. I think it can be an interesting story. I just, I don't know who wrote the synopsis but I would have liked for them to have given, uh, Shonda the same treatment that they, she gave, they gave all of her brothers and give a little bit of her personality traits besides just "she's a female".
Shauna:                               16:57                    Right? Yeah. Like any descriptor would be nice. I mean, aside from female.
Dan:                                     17:02                    Right? Yes. Yes. All right. So in 2017 there's a song when it rains, it pours by Luke Combs. This is a country music song that I listened to and it is a, of course it starts off with his girlfriend leaving him.
Shauna:                               17:16                    Oh yeah.
Dan:                                     17:16                    Right cause it's a country song.
Shauna:                               17:17                    I mean does it, his dog dies
Dan:                                     17:19                    Well his dog didn't die here. This is actually mostly a happy song as well. So the he's using, when it rains it pours as a positive in this particular version as well. So one of the lines goes "Then I won a hundred bucks on a scratch off ticket Bought two twelve packs and a tank of gas with it She swore they were a waste of time, oh, but she was wrong I was caller number five on a radio station, won a four-day, three-night, beach vacation Deep sea, senorita, fishing down in Panama And I ain't gotta see my ex future mother-in-law anymore Oh lord, when it rains it pours"
Shauna:                               17:57                    That's a fantastic line. There at the end... I mean really all of that whole sequence. That's, that's great.
Dan:                                     18:03                    I mean the whole, the whole song, at least for the music video that I saw, and we'll link to it on the Patreon Uh, but from what I saw, it looks like, uh, he likes to hang out with the boys and, um, probably like they ham up the fact that there are a bunch of Hickish, you know, overly stereotyped redneck type young boys and haven't found what they're going to do in life. But then, uh, when it rains it pours and in the good times just keep coming for him. So I didn't actually finish the whole song, but, um, you know, I got, I got through enough of it to get the gist, I think.
Shauna:                               18:39                    Yeah.
Dan:                                     18:41                    All right. So, uh, and the last thing I want to mention on this is a quote from Joan Marques, Author, PhD, Professor at Woodbury, and Generally smart woman
Shauna:                               18:52                    obviously.
Dan:                                     18:53                    Yes. So when it, this is her quote, “When it rains it pours. Maybe the art of life is to convert tough times to great experiences: we can choose to hate the rain or dance in it.”
Shauna:                               19:04                    I really like that.
Dan:                                     19:06                    Yeah, it mixes several phrases that we're familiar with into one. Um, really good poignant phrase I think.
Shauna:                               19:15                    Yeah, I really, I'm, I'm a dance in the rain type too.
Dan:                                     19:18                    Well of course I like the rain as well. Though maybe not in the quantities we are currently getting. And I love idioms though. So it stands to reason I would enjoy idioms and phrases about rain and we've got a few more we're going to do in the future, so I don't want to spoil anything, but I did run across to another phrase that I wanted to mention. So here's your bonus idiom for this week.
Dan:                                     19:39                    If it should rain porridge, he would want his dish.
Dan:                                     19:43                    Which I think about that. I'm like, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.
Shauna:                               19:51                    Yeah. So I don't either. I can't...
Dan:                                     19:53                    Defined by the Oxford English dictionary as meaning "this person is characterized by bad luck or an inability to be organized or prepared."
Shauna:                               20:02                    Mm.
Dan:                                     20:03                    I'm going to give a really early example, like the first attestation they have and then I'm going to give one that's more a little bit more modern.
Dan:                                     20:09                    So in 1576..
Shauna:                               20:12                    What?!?
Dan:                                     20:12                    Yeah, I know, right?
Shauna:                               20:14                    Wati, so this is older, like in print right?
Dan:                                     20:17                    Yes.
Shauna:                               20:18                    Wow.
Dan:                                     20:18                    Yeah. Not necessarily older necessarily. Cause we don't, we can't pin it down. But you know, it was an old proverb in 1700 for when it rains it pours. But this says "it rayned porrage, but I wanted a dish",
Dan:                                     20:31                    And this is 1576 by Ulpian Fulwell in Ars Adulandi.
Shauna:                               20:38                    Man.
Dan:                                     20:38                    Right. That's so far back.
Shauna:                               20:39                    I mean, I would want a dish too, but I would want that dish so I could put it like turn it upside down and put it over my head.
Dan:                                     20:47                    Well, so in this case it's, it's supposed to signify that, you know, you have like, here's this good thing happening, but your luck is so bad that Oh, it's raining porridge. But you, you don't even have a dish to catch it in.
Shauna:                               20:59                    Gotcha. Like the basics of the day You're not prepared for anything.
Dan:                                     21:01                    Right. So here, here's a from Katherine Susanna Pritchard in her book Wnged Seeds. This is from 1950 she wrote, he's the "unluckiest man I ever knew. If it was raining pea soup, he'd only have a fork. "
Dan:                                     21:17                    Uh, you can see the allusion to that as well as that as that plants out. Nice. All right, so that's our, is there a quick bonus idiom for you today, but that does wrap us up. So thanks for joining us. If you haven't already, take a moment to go to your podcasting app and rate us since we're almost done with the show now you can go ahead and do that now if you want. Spread the love to your fellow word nerds by letting them know how much you enjoy the show. If you have a suggestion for an idiom or another turn of phrase or you just want to chat, you can catch us on Twitter and Instagram and occasionally even Facebook all @bunnytrailspod or you can get links to everything we do at
Shauna:                               21:56                    All right. This is your last chance to get us a message before episode 50. Is there a turn of phrase that means something important to you or your family? Well, we want to hear about it. You can reach out to us on social media or email us We'd love to hear about your favorite phrase and why you love it. The deadline to send your stuff to us is Sunday, May 26th it can be written or an audio file or send us a message and we'll reach back out to you. Thanks again for joining us. We'll talk to you again next week. And until then, remember,
Together:                           22:32                    words belong to their users.

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