Wednesday 2 June 2010

Vocabulary: It's raining cats and dogs!

Image from

Rain, rain, rain...... It's raining cats and dogs!!! Downpour!!! Cloud-burst!! Rainstorm!!

Most people are sick of rainy days. For me, I don't quite agree. Well, yes, I won't get to practise my football, but without rain, plants can't grow, and we almost had to go into water ration last Winter if you recall, so without rain, we have no water to drink.

Anyway, back to our main topic for today.

Have you heard about a new British survey which reported how much British people talk about weather? Here's one of the many (from Digital Journal). In short, it was a survey carried out by Lloyds TSB Insurance and British People Discuss Weather 49 Hours a Year. Is it such a great topic to have a chinwag over? In my opinions, "no", because like what the Digital Journal wrote,

"It's often been said that if people can't think of anything else to say then they'll happily discuss the weather.

So if I have lots of other topics queuing up on my list, weather will show up in my conversations almost only when either the weather or my conversation has gone incredibly wrong. But after reading the news article, you should know that it is always safe to chit-chat with a British lady about weather. Then again, you need to know the words first......

British People Say Hello and Talk about Weather

Ever since I have recommended the Hong Kong Observatory website in the article Website: Hong Kong Observatory, have you learnt anything useful from there? The website has changed the layout such that the satellite and radar images are now shown on the front page. Yet, the most useful of all in terms of learning English weather vocabulary, is the Local Weather Forecast section, on which you can find blue links to weather terms we need.

For instance, rain, can be classified into the following:

Precipitation of water drops of very small size.
Isolated showers
Showers occur only in small parts of the territory at a time
Occasional showers
Showers occur only in most parts of the territory occasionally
Scattered showers
The rain-bearing clouds do not stay together and are distributed spatially, resulting in showers occurring in parts of the territory. It may be rain-free in other parts of the territory.
Brief precipitation usually from convective clouds. It is characterized by the sudden start and end of the precipitation as well as the fine weather before and after its occurrence.

Precipitation of water drops from deep and thick cloud layers. It is more persistent than showers but the rainfall amount is less.
Squally showers
Showers accompanied by brief but sudden strong or gale force winds.
Thundery showers
Precipitation of water drops from cumulonimbus clouds. It is characterized by its sudden start and end with rapid changes in the intensity of rain, accompanied by thunders.

There are many other terms to learn from the website, so do spend some time to study the rest as well. You don't need to go too specialised though, in my opinions, I think I will just need to know the difference between drizzle, showers, rain, squally and thundery showers.

I'm really fond of weather, so maybe next round, I can talk about typhoon, since the season is coming.

By the way, British people like to talk about weather is not really a new discovery. See Nov 2008 Talking about weather is top British trait. I'm sure there are many more surveys done earlier.

Don't forget to check the radar / satellite images from the HKO website before leaving home!

It's raining cats and dogs! -- (old-fashioned) something that you say when it is raining heavily
downpour -- (n) [C usually singular] a lot of rain in a short time 
cloud-burst -- (n) [C] a sudden heavy fall of rain
rainstorm -- (n) [C] a weather condition with strong wind and heavy rain
chinwag -- (n) [C] informal a long and pleasant conversation between friends
precipitation -- (n) [U] specialized water which falls from the clouds towards the ground, especially as rain or snow
spatially -- (adv) relating to the position, area and size of things
convective --(adj) from the word convection -- (n) [U] specialized the flow of heat through a gas or a liquid
squally -- (adj) a sudden strong wind or short storm
cumulonimbus --(n) [U] specialized a large, tall type of cumulus cloud that is often dark and brings heavy rain or a thunderstorm

Cumulonimbus Clouds
Image from Bill Adams