There is always something new to learn. Life seems to be a kind of curve. Humans start off knowing they know nothing (but not caring as long as the milk keeps flowing and the nappies get changed). They progress through a period of being convinced they know everything to a much longer period of thinking they know quite a lot, but maybe not everything. Finally comes the bittersweet realisation – I know very little, and there is not enough time left for learning. But we can keep an open mind, can’t we? We can stoop to gather such tiny gems of information as may fall onto the pavement as we shuffle along.
A while back I watched a Horizon programme about weather on other planets. Until then I had thought of weather as something that happened all the time in Britain, on rare occasions elsewhere, but certainly not out in space.
But yes. For instance on Saturn the temperatures are so high and the pressure so great that it rains diamonds! On other planets it is thought to rain rubies – and sapphires. Apparently a green crystal rain falls on a star called HOPS-68. There is even a newly-discovered planet called 55 Cancri e which is twice the size of earth and made of diamond.
You’d need a pretty big finger to wear that baby.
Why don’t they call stars romantic names anymore – Sirius, Vega, Arcturus, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix, Altair or Achermar? Can you imagine Captain Kirk: Beam me down, Scottie – I shall pay a visit the HOPS-68ians or Spock reminding everyone that the 55 Cancri e-ites were a matriarchal society known for their extreme ferocity?
Well, pretty dull here on Earth then. All it rains here is water. And animals. In Singapore in 1861, it rained fish that had probably been caught up in a waterspout at sea and then dropped over land. Here is an illustration of that event:
Toads and frogs are rumoured to tumble down during tornadoes. Sometimes they are reported to be “startled, but healthy” on landing. Other times the poor things arrive shredded, frozen to death or encased in ice. Flocks of migrating birds can be killed in flight if caught up in a tornado, or may fall to the ground stunned.
Then there are all the imaginary or metaphorical things it could be raining. According to The Weather Girls, of course, It’s Raining Men. René Magritte agreed although his men were less interesting:
The phrase it’s raining cats and dogs (archaic version: it’s raining cats, dogs and pitchforks) is apparently taught to all foreign students of English.
English people rarely say it nowadays: as The Independent points out they are more likely to remark that it’s bucketing down or – less politely – pissing down.
I thought I might leave you with a few translations of the textbook British expression to savour:
It’s raining old women with knobkerries (clubs) – Afrikaans
It’s raining barrels and casks – Catalan
Basin-bending rain is falling – Mandarin
Dog poo is falling – Cantonese
It’s raining wheelbarrows – Czech
It’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices – Danish
It’s a frog-strangling gully washer – Australian
It’s raining frogs/ropes/halberds/nails/buckets/like a pissing cow – French
It’s raining eyes and ears shut – Thai
It’s raining female trolls – Norwegian
It’s throwing cobblers knives – Irish
Tractors are falling – Slovak
It’s even raining husbands – Spanish
Earth and sand are falling – Japanese
Dogs are drinking in their noses (Haitian Creole)