Sunday, August 11, 2013

Toad Floaters and Gully Washers

This is the second summer in the Shire 
in which the weather has been very rainy and wet.
Last summer, when everyone else in the country 
endured record-breaking droughts,
 we were soaked in rain.
So much so that all of my impatiens rotted in their planters.
And while this summer is not as bad as that,
it's still pretty rainy.
Yesterday we had pounding rain and some hail.

It made me think of all the different words
that people in the U.S. use to describe heavy rains.
When I was growing up in North Central Missouri,
we called them downpours or gully washers.

According to D.A.R.E., the Dictionary of American Regional English,
many places in the U.S. refer to these sudden heavy rains
as toad floaters, toad washers, toad stringers
or variations on toad stranglers:
namely toad-frog stranglers and toad chokers.

 Another variation is cloudburst.
Wikitionary  adds a few more:
sod soaker, trash mover, cob floater, and duck drowner.
I wasn't successful finding a Tidewater regionalism for heavy rain,
but I recall hearing a few people refer to soakers.

And beyond one or two words, there are a number of metaphors:
raining cats and dogs, raining buckets.
It seems more modern-day speakers are favoring an adjective + rain construction:
heavy rain, pouring rain, driving rain, and so on.

Khalil Gibran referred to rain as 
"dotted silver threads dropped from heaven..."
A bit more poetic than calling it a toad strangler,
but however rain is described
its result is the same.

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