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Ask Tom why: What is the origin of the phrase "raining cats and dogs"?

Ask Tom Skilling, raining cats and dogs

Dear Tom,

What is the origin of the phrase "raining cats and dogs"?

—Edie Peterson, Woodridge

Dear Edie,

There are several plausible explanations, but no definitive origin. In mythological tales once prevalent across northern Europe, cats and dogs were thought to be able to influence the weather. English sailors attributed gales and violent storms to cats, and in portions of northern Europe the dog was the symbol for wind. Combining these concepts could have evolved into the expression "raining cats and dogs." Another explanation is that the bodies of dead cats and dogs would often float down filthy streets following a heavy rain. In another vein, Eric Sloane, author of "Folklore of American Weather," feels it is a mispronunciation of the Pennsylvania German phrase: "It is raining to keep in the cats and bring out the ducks."

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