"It's Raining Cats and Dogs" – 5 Fun Cat and Dog Proverbs Commonly Used in English and German
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Don't we love them: cats and dogs, our domestic friends. In fact, 23% of German households have cats, while 19% have dogs. In the UK, a whopping 23% of households keep dogs as pets, and 16% enjoy the company of their feline equivalents. When we look at these numbers across Germany and the UK, it comes as no surprise that our love of these furry creatures is also reflected in our language.
Let's have a look at 5 fun cat and dog proverbs (Ger.: Redewendungen) in English and German. Let me begin by saying: Not all of these are very kind, some may surprise you and some even have a dark origin. However, all of them are sure to please that little show-off we have inside us that likes to grace others with fun facts. So here we go.
1. English: dog's dinner
A dog's dinner refers to something that is unorganised, chaotic, messy. The German equivalent Schlamassel is another word for chaos or mess.
English example: The government's latest proposals are a dog's dinner.
German example: Sieh dir den Schlamassel an, den du angerichtet hast! (Engl. Look at the mess you've made!)
2. English: Let sleeping dogs lie.
German: Man sollte keine schlafenden Hunde wecken.
This phrase is used to warn someone not to bring up a bad incident or topic with a person who may have already forgotten about it.
English example: Don't remind her of that fight you had two years ago. Let sleeping dogs lie.
German translation: Erinnere sie bloß nicht an den Streit, den ihr vor zwei Jahren hattet. Man sollte keine schlafenden Hunde wecken.
3. English: It's raining cats and dogs.
German: Es schüttet wie aus Eimern.
This old British expression is said to date back to the 17th century when people would throw their waste out on the streets, including their deceased pets. I know, the meaning behind this particular one is much darker than many of us probably realised. Like I said, some of these aren't very kind... Let's look at a quick example and move on. 😫
English example: Blimey! Don't go outside right now, it's raining cats and dogs.
German example: Geh jetzt lieber nicht raus, es schüttet wie aus Eimern. (Engl. lit.: it's pouring like from buckets).
4. English: It was all for nothing.
German: Es war alles für die Katz'.
It's said that this common German saying originates from a tale called "Der Schmied und die Katze" (Engl.: the blacksmith and the cat). The blacksmith was too nice, to the point where he let himself be taken advantage of by his customers, never charging them a set amount, but rather asking them to pay what they wanted to. As a result, he never received any money for his work. All he got was a "Danke" (Engl.: thanks) here and there. He eventually became angry and got an old cat which he tied to his workstation. Whenever a customer would leave with nothing but a "Danke", he would turn to his cat and say: "Here you go, cat. Have this". So in the end, the cat starved because the blacksmith never got paid properly, and it was all for nothing. Again, I apologise for the dark backstory here... I hope the cute pictures in this blog make up for it. 😋
English example: I just cleaned the floor and now you come in with your dirty shoes. It was all for nothing!
German translation: Ich habe gerade den Boden geputzt und jetzt kommst du mit deinen dreckigen Schuhen rein. Das war doch alles für die Katz'! (Engl. lit.: It was all for the cat).
5. English: To have a hangover
German: Einen Kater haben
We've all been there: "Sure, I’ll come out for a drink!". One alcoholic beverage then turns into two or three, even a couple of shots, and before you know it, you wake up the next morning with a so-called hangover. In German, you would say that you have a Kater, which is a male cat. Why is that? Well, let's see: Interestingly, felines actually have nothing to do with this phrase. The real meaning behind einen Kater haben stems from the word Katarrh (Engl.: catarrh), which is an inflammation of the mucous membranes. Another word for Katarrh in German is the more common "Schleimhautentzündung" (say that 3 times really quickly, it'll be fun!). And because hangover symptoms resemble those of a mucosa irritation, this expression became a German idiom that people can use as a roundabout way of saying that they got "wasted" last night.
English example: I should have stopped after the third beer. Now I have a hangover.
German translation: Nach dem dritten Bier hätte ich aufhören sollen. Jetzt habe ich einen Kater.
Have fun using these proverbs from now on and let me know which is your favourite!
I'm always excited to hear about any fun or weird idioms you come across as well, so please feel free to share.
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Thank you for reading!
Smiles all around,