Dutch Idioms 25 – It’s Raining! Posted by Sten on Oct 15, 2021 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary, Idioms
Herfst (autumn). Leaves fall down the trees, nature shows its most beautiful colors, spiders spin their webs, and… It rains. At least in the Netherlands, it always rains. Consequently, there are Dutch idioms about it. Here’s a spreekwoord (saying) and uitdrukking (expression) related to regen (rain)! Let’s start with the uitdrukking.
For other idioms in this series, click here.
Het regent pijpenstelen!
It’s raining cats and dogs!
Literally: it’s raining stems of a pipe!
It’s raining stems of a pipe? Yeah, we say this in the Netherlands. This formal and informal expression is ubiquitous and probably one of the most used uitdrukkingen in Dutch. We simply have that much rain.
But what on earth is meant by pijpenstelen? Well, back in the day, certain smoking pipes had stems that were long and thin, just like raindrops during heavy rain as you can see in the picture above. An example of such a pijp (pipe) is the Goudse pijp (Gouda pipe).
With all that rain, there are of course many more variations on the het regent… expression. Onze Taal lists a number, including het regent scheermessen (it’s raining razors), het regent telegraafdraden (it’s raining telegraph cords) and het regent bakstenen (it’s raining bricks). Out of these, I’ve only ever really heard pijpenstelen, though. Definitely the most common one.
It’s an unsolved mystery why it’s raining cats and dogs in English, but there are some theories. Probably a Latin or Greek thing.
Here’s an example of how you use the uitdrukking:
Kom je straks even langs op de fiets?
– Ben je gek? Het regent pijpenstelen! Ik kom vanavond wel even, als het heeft opgehouden.
(Are you gonna come by in a bit on your bike?
– Are you crazy? It’s raining cats and dogs! I’ll come by tonight though, when it’s stopped.)
Na regen komt zonneschijn
after a storm comes a calm
Literally: After rain comes sunshine.
Of course, the rain stops at some point. And at that point, you know what you’ll get: zonneschijn! This saying is a really wholesome one, and often told as encouragement – don’t worry, things will be better after this. Na slechte tijden komen er betere tijden (There will be better times after bad times).
Where it comes from isn’t really clear, and the origin probably isn’t Dutch. There are references that go as far back as the Middle Ages! Usage is quite universal in the Netherlands. Everybody knows this one, and it’s used quite a lot too in informal and formal settings. So always safe to use this one!
Here’s an example use:
Ik heb m’n examen niet gehaald!
– Wat rot! Ik snap dat je verdrietig bent, maar vergeet niet: na regen komt zonneschijn.
(I didn’t pass my exam!
– How awful! I understand that you’re sad, but don’t forget: after a storm comes a calm)
Have you heard/used this uitdrukking and spreekwoord? Do you know of other idioms that you’d like to see covered? Let me know in the comments below. If you want to read more about how to talk about rain in Dutch, Karoly and Heather wrote nice posts about this topic before!
Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Barney Dunbar Lamar:
In English we have the expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Do you have anything similar in Dutch?
The same thing applies to dogs as well.
@Barney Dunbar Lamar Oh interesting, let me find out 🙂