When cats sneeze it is a sign of rain

When cats sneeze it is a sign of rain


This blog was written by Alex Johnson, author of 100 Words for Rain

out on April 11.

According to a recent survey, here in the UK we spend five whole months of our lives talking about the weather. And our national obsession is nothing new. Seventeenth-century diarist Samuel Pepys regularly noted in his diary when it was roasting hot or belting down with rain. Here he is on March 20, 1659:

“Then to Westminster, where by reason of rain and an easterly wind, the water was so high that there was boats rowed in King Street and all our yard was drowned, that one could not go to my house, so as no man has seen the like almost, most houses full of water.”

 At the heart of 100 Words for Rain is a list of the many regional words we use to describe everything from when it’s barely raining (‘bange’ in East Anglia) to a very heavy shower (‘dumberdash’ in Cheshire), or more annoyingly when it looks like it’s going to stop but doesn’t (‘flench’ in Scotland). Here are three of my favourites from that list:

Fox’s wedding – a term to describe sudden raindrops falling from a clear sky. Interestingly, it’s not just a term used in Dorset and Devon, but also in Japan.

Blunk – an unexpected heavy rain shower in the Shropshire/the Welsh Borders.

It’s gone dark over Bill’s mother’s – a Staffordshire saying for that moment when ominous dark clouds appear, suggesting rain might be on the way soon.

Over the centuries, we’ve come up with all kinds of ingenious ways of predicting when rain is coming. One way is by looking at animals’ behaviour. Published in 1869, Richard Inwards’ book ‘Weather lore: a collection of proverbs, sayings, and rules concerning the weather’ offers these two helpful observations:

If Spaniels sleep more than usual it foretells wet weather.

If cats sneeze it is a sign of rain. 

 Amateur weather forecasters have also used the weather itself to forecast the weather. John Claridge uses the behaviour of mists to help us in his 1670 ‘The Shepherd of Banbury’s Rules’. So “If they rise in low Ground and soon vanish = Fair Weather” but “If they rise to the Hill-tops = Rain in a Day or two.” Claridge also includes a version of a saying familiar to us all in the 21st century – “If red the Sun begins his Race, Be sure that Rain will fall apace.”

But don’t worry: there’s a lot more than rain in the book, including the earliest weather report (from the 13th century), how to tell if it’s snowing (not as straightforward as you might think), and the impact of weather on war (from 1066 to the D-Day landings).

One of my favourite sections looks at how weather affects our mood and behaviour. Generally, people taking part in a YouGov survey reported that they found windy days energising, while foggy days made some people feel trapped but others found that they made things intriguingly mysterious. More specifically, other research shows the effect on our mental health of hot (and cold) weather, how weather determines how we book our holidays, what a few degrees increase in temperature has on our shopping habits, and the impact of the weather on everything from voting to criminal behaviour.

In fact, it’s full of interesting facts and figures to liven up your next chat about the weather. And the next. And the next. And the…


100 Words for Rain is a surprising and entertaining guide to Britain’s favourite subject – our weather. This beautifully illustrated, inspirational and informative book is packed with information you’ll want to share about this most important subject – quirky history, surprising facts, folklore, strange words and even stranger people.