- June 19, 2012
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
I don’t usually shunt other articles into the word of the week but the BBC has asked why the British don’t have fifty words for rain (AND, apparently, the Inuit don’t have 50 words for snow, which is a great disappointment to me).
More than 50 words for precipitation
I was a bit sceptical of this and decided to test it. This is my list. I have not used any vulgar terms, which I could have resorted to within the rules I had drawn up (I get to choose). I even prevented myself using variation on the same root word such as drench, drenching and drencher.
- heavy rain
- pleasure-and-pain/ache and pain (Cockney rhyming slang)
- Scotch mist
- torrent/torrential rain
Dialect words for rain
Even the BBC article recognised that the many different English dialects have their own sets of precipitation words. English dialects in England can be categorised into seven major groups: Received English (“the Queen’s English”), Northern, East Midlands, West Midlands, East Anglia, Southern, West Country and Highland English. Many have their own words for rain.
- Bange (East Anglia), a sort of dampness in the air, light rain
- Bluffart (Scottish)
- Cow quaker
- Hig (England)
- Hurley Burley (England)
- Plash (Northumbrian)
- Raining forks’tiyunsdown’ards (Lincolnshire) like it’s raining pitchforks (tines downwards)
The Slang Dictionary, by John Camden Hotten of 1913 has a couple of interesting words:
- Parney comes from the Gypsy pané for rain
- Dowry, meaning a lot of rain, was a shortening of a dowry of parney
Australia and the US rain words
Australia also has regional differences in word use. The Macquarie Dictionary recognises “knock-em-down rains” from the Northern Terrritory which refers to:
knocking down the tips of the spear grass that has just started turning brown at this time of year, the rain knocks the seedy heads off for next year’s spear.
We shouldn’t forget that the US has different dialects as well. These things are hard to define and categorise but some suggest the US has between 3 and 25. A couple of US terms for heavy rain are:
There are also many other different English dialects around the world (one estimate is 160). So the list can go on well past 50 words in England specifically and in English generally …