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Is it old-fashioned to say "It's raining cats and dogs"? If yes, what is the substitution idiom for expressing heavy rain?

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    It still used today to indicate (extremely) heavy rain or rainfall. It is not considered old-fashioned. It is an idiomatic expression. – Alan Carmack Aug 22 '16 at 4:43
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    As a side note, when it is raining that hard be careful not to step in a poodle. – Keeta Aug 22 '16 at 15:06
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    I still use it - but it's not as bad as hailing taxis. – Glen_b Aug 23 '16 at 0:46
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    Where & how did the phrase originate? Why cats & dogs? – Alex S Aug 23 '16 at 10:14
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    @AlexS There are many stories about its origin; e.g. that people kept their cats and dogs out in the yard and they remained outside at all times, except when the weather was so bad that they came seeking shelter inside. – Mr Lister Aug 23 '16 at 12:04
21

It's raining cats and dogs

is used to describe very heavy rain and is still in use these days.

here

Alternative phrasing might be

It's pouring
It's bucketing
It's a deluge
It's pissing down (BrE)
It's really coming down (can be used for any precipitation )


here

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    One more as I remember - it's teeming :) – Maulik V Aug 22 '16 at 6:01
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    I've personally (AmE) never heard "It's bucketing," but I have heard "It's raining buckets." – alex_d Aug 22 '16 at 7:41
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    I like "There certainly is plenty of weather today" – z0r Aug 22 '16 at 9:46
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    It's in use - but I've only heard it said in the last decade from my grandmother. The most common idiom I've heard is "it's [insert colloquialism for urination]ing it down" – SeanR Aug 22 '16 at 11:34
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    In Australia (and I believe UK too), we say "It's pissing down", or if extremely heavy "It is absolutely pissing down" – Bohemian Aug 22 '16 at 11:48
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Perhaps nowadays the saying is less popular among young native speakers, it does sound a bit of a cliché. According to Google Ngram, the British English corpus shows its popularity has declined since its peak in the 1940s.

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Whereas according to Google Ngrams, it seems that American English speakers are loving it, the chart shows a sharp increase in usage since the 1970s.

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Ngram link

To add to the many colloquial sayings mentioned already by @Peter and @Jocie, the very common, but perhaps for some speakers offensive, phrase:

It's pissing down

and the innocuous-sounding

It's pelting down

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    I've always heard "pelting down" solely for hail. For me, "pelting" implies being painfully hit with something, or hit in a way that might damage. – Deusovi Aug 22 '16 at 23:39
  • It's probably a regional thing, in BrEng it is used for very heavy rain. – Mari-Lou A Aug 22 '16 at 23:41
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    I believe the word "cliché" is now cliché, too... – John Dvorak Aug 23 '16 at 8:25
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    A personal fav of mine is: "I think a cloud crash landed" – candied_orange Sep 16 '16 at 3:46
  • Just a note, in case visitors are wondering, Peter added "it's pissing down" in his answer after I had posted this suggestion. – Mari-Lou A Apr 19 '17 at 14:32
8

It entirely depends on where you are in the world, right down to the city. I'm from Lincolnshire in England and I have never heard anyone say "it's raining cats and dogs" without them being silly or making a joke.

Locally we'd say "it's chucking it down"

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    Does use of an idiom become less valid if it was intended to be humorous? – Gusdor Aug 22 '16 at 11:59
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    Or (possibly Yorkshire dialect rather than pure Lincolnshire) "It's siling [with rain]". (Pronounced with a long "i" vowel, as in "eye"). From the Norse "sila", to pour something through a strainer, apparently. – alephzero Aug 22 '16 at 12:37
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    +1 for the very local nature of these things - in NYC, "it's raining cats and dogs" is maybe a little old-fashioned, but that's all; "it's chucking it down" would not be understood at all. – stangdon Aug 22 '16 at 12:47
  • @Gusdor Perhaps "joke" isn't the right word, more taking the mick out of the mid-20th century. Normally (again, in my experience) it would be voiced in a particular way (perhaps an older, Yorkshire/farmer-like accent, it's hard to describe in written form). To answer OPs question, "Is it old-fashioned", for my locale? Absolutely. – Jocie Aug 22 '16 at 12:48
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    @alephzero I grew up in West Yorkshire and my parents still live there. Never heard "siling" in my life. – David Richerby Aug 22 '16 at 22:01
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Yes, "cats and dogs" is still in use and almost all Americans will understand. There is also the airplane pilot's description of truly bad weather when driving a car: "It's IFR weather out there" (Instrument Flight Rules), meaning (jokingly) you can't see a dang thing through the windshield and you must use your car's oil pressure gauge to steer by.

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