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"How Do I Soak Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: " Terms Used for British Rainfall.

Updated on July 13, 2011

Shall I compare thee to a Rainy Day!?

Rain plays a large part in British life and language

The Folksy Names, Describing Degrees of Precipitation, are Capitalized, in Itallics..

If any visitor or researcher of the British Isles has any doubt that they were wet and windy places to live, he or she only has to marvel at the number of ways the beleaguered inhabitants have to describe rainfall and (the infrequent) sunshine…which itself can be watery!

Although the major cities in Britain - principally London - rarely get the heavy and choking fogs known as “Pea-Soupers any more,” a combination of inverted weather patterns and the effluents from the thousands of chimneys in the long gone industrial age, we still get plenty of spirit dampening “Mists,” the first and least of the ways it can “Precipitate” in the UK. (Precipitate, or Precipitation is just a posh word for raining).

Probably the next in order of “wetability,” (nice to upset my spell-check, which just retaliated by making me put a hyphen in “spell-check!”), is “Spitting.” This is the rain that makes for indecisiveness as we leave the house. “Was that little needle of cold a raindrop I felt, or birdshit?” No, it’s just my circulation playing up again…wait, no, there’s another…and another. Back I go for my brolly/coat, laptop to abuse the BBC Weather Report who said it would be sunny all day.”

So we glare at the Accumulating-Nimble, or whatever that gloomy looking black cloud is to the west, and sadly put the intermittent wipers on in the jalopy, which smear the spider web, yellow dead moth viscera, accumulated bird droppings and road grease across the windscreen. (“Crap! I keep meaning to fill the screen wash bottle“).

You daren’t complain about rain in the UK. There is always some bright spark ready to out the unarguable mantra “Hey, but we need it, don’t we?” He might, the drip! (rain permeates the language here). Personally, I don’t care if we have a 7-year drought; all the farmers go bankrupt and we can see the centre of the earth through the cracks in the soil. I don’t care if the Sahara pushed northward and envelopes this miserable damp nation in 1000-feet high sand-dunes covered in rag-heads on camels. Call me self-centered, but…Just so long as the sun shines!

Oh, stop getting me going like this; you’re dampening my spirits!

Next, after the Weather God has a peep at us and decides we have adjusted to spitting, he turns up the ante a whit and it begins to "Fine Rain," followed by “Drizzle.” This last is a particularly nasty downfall which turns everything a monochromatic shade of grey; often occurs in winter to lower the temperature even further and has many considering bank-robbery (especially those who work in these institutions) to be able to fly away to the Bahamas…or the Sahara.

Drizzle has a habit of “Setting in” which is how Brits describe a weather pattern likely to last a week or more. (It rains effortlessly here, but the sun is always having trouble “Trying to come out!”). When weather people here say “We’re going to have sunshine and showers all day,” that means 1% sunshine and 99% cloud and rain…especially on bank holidays. “Ooo. Look, Gary, there’s enough sun to make a pair of sailor’s trousers!” (there’s a one-inch-square area of blue sky!”) You can sneer in Arizona, at least we don’t have rattlers and ASU students!

Less a matter of degree, but more of a time period is the “Shower.”

We look hopefully aloft from behind an inside-out brolly, and say brightly to anyone around, “It’s only going to be a shower I think.” If it wqsn't for our abyssmal weather, the British would never speak to one another at all!

“Well, we need it, don’t we?” is the damp rejoinder. A shower can be five minutes of lightish fall, to an hour of something approaching a monsoon in Mumbai (“well, we need it!).

It is about now that all the pets in Britain look resignedly skyward and moan, “Now it’s our turn to be accused of something we had no paw in!” That’s because the Creator (a fruit farmer) really opens the sluices and it rains "Cats and Dogs!" It’s hard to understand the imagery of this analogy, unless it refers to the size of the rain drops, (They might be "Thunder Drops!"). A cats and dogs event rarely drowns anyone here: if it lasts for long, it overwhelms the rain gutters and drain systems of many streets, After all, we’ve only been aware of the problem for thousands of years, not time to build adequate, high sidewalks and efficient drains…this is not the Amazon, after all. You always know when the rainfall has been particularly heavy here, the mad-hatter from the Ministry of Masturbation imposes a hosepipe ban!

Like how we deal with snowfall, a yearly event, as a two-inch downfall paralyzes the country, “Because it never snows here!” “We only stockpiled 3 tons of salt for the entire country!” Yes, and bankers never steal, the 2012 Olympic tickets sale is honest and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction!

Cats and dogs can also come down in containers, apparently, as it is "Raining Buckets."

This is a fun time for British motorists, gazing from their little hatchbacks, warm and dry and pissing up the road as fast and near to the walkways as they can, sending a bow-wave of water over the ants scurrying along, already soaked and late for work from hopping from one shop canopy to the other. That there is actually a law against doing this in Britain only makes it that much more fun.

Along with Cats and Dogs: now the rain is coming down in "Sheets" (wind driven). Along with the bedding theme, we are "Blanketed" in rain. It’s a "Downpour;" “Oh, mum, you should see it, it’s coming down in "Torrents.” “Yes, luv, but the farmers need it, don’t they?” Not that such heavy rain is always good, it can flatten crops when it is "Teeming Down!"

The cynically modern reply to is it raining over there? “Yes, it’s "Pissing Down!"

Traditionalists might talk of really heavy rain as a "Deluge." While God also occasionally takes part as the "Heavens Opened!"

Along with those who see precipitation as like a stream in a gent's loo, are those casual chaps who remark, "It's Chucking It Down"...or, "Heaving It Down!"

Sometimes, the rain turns into ice and comes down as "Sleet" (a sort of dirty, slush in drops) or "Hail," but that is for another article which Eskimos would do a better job of, they have about 30 words for degrees of snow. (It’s a "Blizzard," dad.“ Yes, Tarquin, but the seals need it!”)

As I write this…honest! There is a common battle going on in the sky outside my Herts flat. The sun is “trying to shine,” but is being swallowed by ominous thunder clouds. Oh, well, perhaps we’ll get a "Rainbow"…

Summary of Common Terms (From lighest to heaviest)

Mist -Spitting- Fine Rain- Drizzle- Cats and Dogs- Raining Buckets- Sheets- Blanketed- Downpour.

Torrent- Teeming Down- Pissing Down- Deluge- Heavens Opened!-

Chucking or Heaving it down, interchangeable with the above line.

Note: A Shower is a short event of any of the above in intenstity. Never confined to just

April, no matter what the poets say!



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    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      ";D" isn't really a "D" but the text version of a winking smiley face I began using years ago instead of my name at the end of comments. Makes sense if you tilt your head to the left and look at it sideways. ;D

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yes, it meant good job...I am flattered by your interest.


      I have a place in Baja so will be near the sea And "D." is for?

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I hope that means GOOD job! Just trying to catch up is all. Guess you should stay inland to avoid being drowned when you're in Mexico. ;D

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Jama: I may be heading back to Mexico for a long time soon...I expect the hurricanes will be made aware of this and I'll get drowned.

      You're sure doing a job with my hubs lately!


    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Bob, you and hubber Bill Holland (billybuc) have a LOT in common when it comes to hubs about rain. But with all due respect to Bill, yours is MUCH funnier. I credit this to the English wit being so dry...perhaps because nothing else is? lol...and because my blood is 90% English and I therefore appreciate the subtle sarcasm a bit more than a non-Brit.

      But look on the bright side. You're only experiencing the last vestiges of the ice cap that once covered the island before it receded slowly northward. Hang in there for another 10,000 years and you can put away the brolly and the screen wash for good.

      Voted up and laughing-till-I-cried funnnnnny! ;D

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Ha! Maybe I'll write a hub about tropical sunshine and beaches and think of you in a bikini!

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 6 years ago from United States

      It must be incredibly green where you are. I love the rain when it comes but only because it arrives so seldom here. What a wet Hub! I wanted to put on my raincoat while reading.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks Rebecca for your comment, also full of joy! Bob

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada

      oh the joy! I love it, I was there when it misted, and was spitting and "dripped" and felt right at home... bring a ton of laughter to my face this one, you've done wonders!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi WOL: I know Queensland. I don't mind tropical rain. It's warm, freshens the air and cools things and it only lasts a certain time every day. It was like that in Acapulco where I lived for a while. In the UK, it's just miserable weather as I expect you know...Bob

    • profile image

      writeronline 6 years ago

      Methinks perhaps a return to 'May-he-coh' could be in order...although it appears to be raining bullets there at present!

      Clear blue sky, bright sunny days, pleasantly cool nights here in Queensland as I write. But, we have had more than our share of rain in recent times, as you no doubt know.

      Take a brolly, wear a hat, mind how you go.


    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Well, he 'plagiarised it from a couple of US singers who did a far better job, tho the video was a scream. Bob

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Yes, Bob, I think that Peter Kaye did sing 'Amarillo'.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks Bobbi Rant and Mr Happy. Your comments and observations always noted and welcomed...Bob

      PS I think most of our bad weather arrives from the US! (eventually)

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Was that little needle of cold a raindrop I felt, or birdshit?" ... that was pretty funny! lol

      "Like how we deal with snowfall, a yearly event, as a two-inch downfall paralyzes the country" - perhaps every British man/woman should visit Canada then, going back to the two-inch downfall would be like a walk in the park. You guys have parks there, don't you? Or has the concrete taken over completely?

      I sort of think I know what you mean about the weather. I remember being in Amsterdam and I had to carry an umbrella with me all the time. One never knows when it will start raining. I think the weather is a little confused in that northern part of Europe. It just doesn't know what to do so it rains a little, stops a little, rains some more ... etc.

      Great blog Mr. Diogenes! Cheers.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      I'm not familiar with British rain,just Wimbledon (spoken like a true Colonist) but loved this hub.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Oh, Trish, do you mean the guy who stole Amarillo??

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      No if he's a hubber I'll go and be jealous! Thanks for visit Bobx

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Bob!

      You describe it so well ~ I'm almost crying with laughter! :)

      Well, you have to laugh, otherwise you would cry ~ and it's usually wet enough already!

      Why can't it just rain at night, if we need it so much?!

      And why do we keep needing more, when it has rained non-stop for the past 5 years?! (Well, it seems that way to me!)

      Still, I suppose it's better than a drought :(

      PS Have you seen Peter Kaye's skit on rain? Hilarius!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yeah, Simey, you gotta be a Brit to really appreciate the sadism of the rain gods who control UK weather. I see we just scraped through Wimbledon this year thanks to the roof on Centre Court. All out facilities need roofs really Bob

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 6 years ago from NJ, USA

      LOL great idea for a hub! When I lived in Wales we had a saying 'If you can see the mountains it's going to rain, if you can't see the mountains it's already raining'! - also as a cricket player you could actually forecast weather based on when the cricket season started - frequent showers on Saturdays and Sundays followed by nice weather when there's no cricket!


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