LINGUIST List 9.1795

Thu Dec 17 1998

Sum: Sunshower

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  • Bert Vaux, Sunshower summary

    Message 1: Sunshower summary

    Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 21:29:58 -0500 (EST)
    From: Bert Vaux <>
    Subject: Sunshower summary

    On November 6, 1998, I posted a request for words or expressions for the term sunshower (LINGUIST 9.1565), and the number of responses was overwhelming. I have summarized the responses below, arranged alphabetically by language. Many thanks to all of you who wrote in with your ideas; I have tabulated the list of respondents at the end of this letter.

    Bert Vaux Assistant professor of Linguistics Harvard University

    References Beccaria, G. L. (1995) I Nomi del Mondo, Turin, Einaudi, pp. 135-149. (More data, in particular concerning Italian and Romance dialects.) Blust, Robert (1998) The Fox's Wedding. Manuscript, University of Hawaii. [Contains many interesting expressions for the sunshower, along with related beliefs.] Dal', V. (1989) Tolkovyi slovar' zhivogo velikorusskogo jazyka. Evgen'jeva, A. P., ed. (1985-) Slovar' russkogo jazyka v 4 tomakh, 3rd edition. Moscow. Kuusi, Matti (1957) Regen bei Sonnenschein: Zur Weltgeschichte einer Redensart. "Folklore Fellows Communications" n. 171, Helsinki 1957 (it appeared translated into Italian in the journal "Quaderni di Semantica" 13 (1992) and 14 (1993)). Hoffmann-Krayer, E. (1930-31) Handwrterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens. Berlin and Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter. Lisician, Srbui (1983) Armjanskie starinnye pljaski. Erevan. Rohlfs, Gerhard (19XX) Calabria e Salento: Saggi di storia linguistica. Ravenna: Longo Editore.

    Abkhaz 1. 'the devils are getting married' (Zihni Sener)

    Amharic 1. djib y9w9ldal 'the hyena is giving birth'

    Arabic 1. firan biyidjawazo 'the rats are getting married' (Syria and Lebanon)

    Aramaic 1. de:we go:ri:lu 'the wolves are marrying' (Estiphan Panoussi-Sena:ya dialect of Iranian Kurdistan, spoken in the Sanandagh area)

    Armenian 1. djindjuxvon harsnike 'bird's wedding' (Ko"pru"cu", northeastern Turkey) 2. ku"lashagh 'wolf shower' (Amatuni, Hayots' Barr u Ban (1912:69)) 3a. gel9 tghay e berum 'the wolf is bearing a son' (Tiflis--Ter Aghekhsandrean 1886:83) 3b. 'the wolf is having a baby' (Vank', Karabagh-Artashes Petrosyan) 3c. geltsnknuk 'wolf birth' (Ararat, Margari--Malxaseanc' 1944.1.410) 3d. gelts'rrt'el, gelts'9rel, gel9 ts'rrt'um 'wolf birth' (Alashkert and Archesh--Amatuni, Hayots' Barr u Ban (1912:69), Malxaseanc' 1944.1.410) 4. gilu harsanik' or gayli harsanik' 'wolf's wedding' (Edjmiatsin region) 5. gel9 sar9 kts'nkni 'the wolf is giving birth on the mountain' 6. eghnik9 sar9 cni k9 'the little hind is giving birth on the mountain' 7. arevmagh 'sun shower' (Kars--Amatuni, Hayots' Barr u Ban (1912:69)) 8. arewts'ogh (Mush--Amatuni, Hayots' Barr u Ban (1912:69)) 9. kot'ashagh [kot' '?' + shagh 'shower'] (Ghazax, Kot')

    Azeri 1. 'the jackal is giving birth' (some dialects, e.g.

    Bislama 1. Ol devel oli mared PL devil AGR marry 'The devils are getting married' [Vanuatu (SW Pacific)--Miriam Meyerhoff]

    Bulgarian 1a. sl'nce gree, dyzhd vali, mechkata se zheni 'the sun is shining, it is raining, the bear is getting married' (Vassil Karloukovski) 1b. sl'nce gree mechka se zheni 'the bears are getting married' (Bissera Pentcheva) 2. 'the devil is getting married' (Vassil Karloukovski, collected from a woman of about 50 years old, who heard it from her gradmother, a refugee from Lozengrad, in the Turkish part of Thrace) 3. 'the vixen (female fox) is getting married' (Velingrad (in the NW Rhodopes, some 100 km to the SE from Sofia)--Vassil Karloukovski)

    Cape Verdean 1. A sunshower on one's wedding day means that the groom has eaten unheated food. (Marlyse Baptista)

    Catalan 1. Plou i fa sol, les bruixes se pentinen Plou i fa sol, les bruixes porten dol. 'It rains and it shines, the witches comb (their hair) It rains and it shines, the withches wear mourning (clothes)' (Lleida province, Catalonia--Miguel Carrasquer Vidal says that his mother sings this song whenever a sunshower occurs)

    Croatian 1. sunce i kisha, fratri se zhenu 'sun and rain, monks are getting married' (the dialect of Korchula, Dalmatia--Damir Kalogjera) 2. cigani se zhene 'gypsies are getting married' (Banja Luka, Bosnia-Damir Kalogjera)

    Dutch (see also Flemish) 1a. kermis in de hel 'fair in hell' (literally 'Kermis in the hell') (near 's-Hertogenbosch in the province of Noord-Brabant and learned from my father, whose family comes from Vlissingen (Zeeland)--Pius ten Hacken) 1b. het is kermis in de hel 'there's a fair in Hell' (Irina Rempt) 1c. kermis in de hel: de duivel slaat zijn wijf/moer 'fair in hell: The devil beats his wife/mother' (Sijmen Tol?) 1d. kermen in de hel: de duivel slaat zijn wijf/moer 'groaning in hell: The devil beats his wife/mother' (Sijmen Tol?) 2. 'monkey's wedding' (according to Lynne Murphy, this expression is used in both Dutch and Afrikaans)

    English 1a. monkey's wedding [South Africa--A dictionary of south african english on historical principles; London--Timothy Ostler, London (but he may have learned it in South Africa; Zimbabwe-Brian Saccente] 1b. monkey's birthday [Oregon--Peter McGraw; Mai Kuha, Spain, learned from British expatriates; Southern China-Kevin McGrath] 2. fox's wedding (SW England-Dave Cragg; see Comment 1 below) 3. donkey's wedding (the woman who used this form grew up in both India and England, so it is not clear which was the source of this expression) 4. sunshower [Vaux; many of the English-speaking respondents indicated that they had not heard this term; others indicated that it referred to intense sun without rain, parallel to French bain de soleil] 5a. the devil's beating his wife (behind the back door) [Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and numerous other Southern states; St. Thomas] 5b. When it rains when it shines, the devil's beating his wife with a codfish [Yorkshire--Patrick Taylor; he adds that the intention is probably dirty--cf. Elizabethan codware 'testicles'] 5c. the devil's kissing his wife (Tennessee--Lynn Webster) 6. liquid sunshine [Hawaii--Ernie Barreto, Susan Fischer] 7. Indian shower (Ernie Barreto)

    Comments: 1. I came across a small piece in the Guardian Weekly newspaper referring to the fox's wedding. (The Guardian Weekly is a digest of the Guardian, and is ditributed overseas. The article was probably in a section of the paper called "Country Diary"; if pushed, I'd say it was after 1990.) It seems this term is used in parts of the south west of England. The article speculated that perhaps the term had originally been 'the folks' wedding', but I don't think there was any evidence for that. (Dave Cragg) 2. One individual from Vidalia, GA stated that 'the devil's beating his wife' was employed to refer to thunder with no rain. 3. Neal Magnusson remembered hearing the phrase 'the devil's beating his wife' used in a rock song, and Emily Tucker recalled reading it in a novel.

    Fijian 1. 'monkey's birthday' (Standard Fijian--Paul Geraghty) 2. 'softener of the sun' (Fijian communalect--Paul Geraghty) 3. 'damper of the dust' (Fijian communalect--Paul Geraghty) 4. 'chaser of the sun' (Fijian communalect--Paul Geraghty) 5. 'siar's wedding' (Paul Geraghty, from a Fijian-Indian friend; siar apparently is a small deer-like animal for which his informant knew neither the English nor the Fijian)

    Finnish 1. Aurinko paistaa, vetta" sataa, Manalassa ha"ita" juodaan "It is raining, the sun is shining, a wedding is being celebrated in Hades" (literally, the verb for celebrating is "drink" as this is, after all, Finnish.) [Arto Anttila] 2. Aurinko paistaa, vetta" sataa, kettu vietta"a" ha"ita "the fox is getting married". [Arto Anttila; the last part is literally fox.SG celebrate-3.SG wedding-PL-PAR; 'wedding' only occurs in the plural.] 3. hiiret vietta"a" ha"ita" 'mice are getting married' (Niina Ripatti)

    Flemish (see also Dutch) 1. Het is kermis in de hel 'they're having a fair in hell' (literally 'It's Kermis in the hell' (West Flanders, Belgium--Wim Vandenbussche, Bert Bultinck, Alex Housen (who mentions that the expression is also listed in Van Dale's Dutch dictionary); kermis/ kermess is an annual outdoor fair in the Low Countries, which also happens to be depicted in a famous painting by Brueghel)

    Galician 1a. Chove e quenta o sol, Vai o demo para Ferrol 'It rains and the sun shines, the devil goes to Ferrol (a Galician coastal city). [Sometimes it continues as follows:] E vai zoupando nas mulleres con coitelos e culleres 'Beating the women with knifes and spoons.' (Xose L. Regueira) 1b. Chove e fai sol, anda o demo en/no Ferrol 'it rains and it's sunny, the devil must be in Ferrol' (Maite Taboada) [does "anda" actually mean 'is going' rather than 'must be?--BV]

    Georgian 1. 'the sun is washing its face'

    German 1. Wann et raent un De Sonn schingk, haet der Duewel Kirmes 'when it rains and the sun shines, the devil has a parish fair' (Koelsch, the dialect of Cologne; found by Thomas Shannon in Adam Wrede, Neuer Koelnischer Sprachschatz) 2. Sonnenregen 'sun-rain'

    Greek 1a. Ilios ke vroxi, padrevode i ftoxi. Ilios ke xioni, padrevode i arxodi 'Sun and rain, poor people are getting married; Sun and snow, rich people are getting married.' (Christina Kakava, Paul Fallon) 1b. ilyos ke vroxi, padrevode i ftoxi ilyos ke fegari, padrevode i Vulghari 'Sun and rain, the poor are getting married; sun and moon, the Bulgarians are getting married.' (Phoevos Panagiotidis) 1c. 'Sun and rain, the poor are getting married' (Amalia Arvaniti) 2. Iljos me dhondia 'sun with teeth' (Alexis Dimitriadis)

    Comments 1. The form "arxontoi" is idiomatic for "arxontes". My guess is that the song used the -oi (rare and non-standard) form to make it as close to "xioni" as possible in terms of rhyme, given also that the stress is on "ar.'xo.ntoi" as opposed to "'ar.xo.ntes". (Thalia Chantziara) 2. The last line of version #1 may have a variant involving jitoni 'neighbors'. (Paul Fallon) 3. My grandpa (1910-1997) was a member of the Greek minority of Istanbul / Constantinople. He used to sing this popular children's song (#2) from his own childhood every time I would marvel at a sunshower as a kid, with the added explanation that Bulgarians=rich people (unless he himself had made this up to entertain me, Bulgarians are not stereotypically rich anywhere in South Eastern Europe). (Phoevos Panagiotidis) 4. 'Sun with teeth' means that, although there is a sun in the sky (i.e. a clear day, not covered with clouds), nevertheless the sun is not generating any heat and it is actually cold. I am assuming it implies that a sun with teeth bites you just like the cold bites you. In short, the phrase is said of a cold day's sun and has nothing to do with sunshower. (Thalia Chantziara)

    Gujarati 1. nago varsad 'naked rain' (Sabbir Kolya)

    Hindi 1. 'the jackal's wedding' (Bihar, north India--Lynne Hewitt)

    Hungarian 1a. veri az ordog a feleseg-e-t beats the devil the wife-3poss-acc 'the devil's beating his wife' (Edit Jakab, Emily Tucker) 1b. ordog veri a feleseget 'the devil is beating his wife' (Gabor Fencsik)

    Indonesian 1. hujan panas 'hot/sunny rain' (Ben Zimmer)

    Italian 1. balano le strie 'the witches are dancing' (Veneto dialect) 2. quando piove col sole, si sposano le volpi 'when it rains with sun, the foxes are getting married' (Calabria and Salento regions--Rohlfs 19XX.138) 3. La piov e la fai souleh "Piove e fa sole, e la rane i zoump ad 'ort e la rana salta nell'orto, e lou babbe se trove mort e il rospo si trova morto, darrei la porte nostre dietro la porta nostra" [Guardia Piemontese, Calabria; this is part of a longer song that I haven't processed yet.] 4. 'the fox is making love' (Corsica--Hoffmann-Krayer 1930, 3.183)

    Japanese 1. kitsune-no yome-iri 'fox's wedding' (literally "fox-genitive bride-enter") (Maki Asano, Dave Cragg) 2. tenki-ame 'weather rain' (Benjamin Barrett)

    Comments 1. There is a well-known instantiation of the 'fox's wedding' in Kurosawa's film "Dreams". 2. The kitsune no yomiire or 'fox's wedding' usually refers to a particular pattern of light. This usually occurs late afternoon when the sun is low (but not always), and there is fairly heavy cloud cover in most of the sky but particularly in the east. The illuminating effect of the light on west facing surfaces is in strong contrast to nearby dark surfaces. In this part of the world (England), there are frequent sunshowers, but only a few of them would be described as a 'fox's wedding'. (Dave Cragg)

    Korean 1. horangi-ka changga-ga-n-ta 'a (male) tiger is getting married' (Hyoung-youb Kim; Chungmin Lee; Grace Moon) 2. 'tiger rain' (Grace Moon; Chungmin Lee) 3. yewu pi OR yeo-u-bi 'fox rain' (Benjamin Barrett, Shin Ja Hwang) 4. haega nan nal cham-kkan-sshik ppu-ri-neunbi 'weather rain' (Benjamin Barrett)

    Comments: 1. changga = 'marriage from the man-side'; sijip = 'marriage from the woman-side' 2. The expression 'tiger rain' is rarely used, except by children. (Chungmin Lee)

    Lithuanian 1. naslaiciu asaros 'orphans' tears' (told to Linas Alsenas by his grandmother, who said that rain was the tears of orphans, and that the sun is out to dry them)

    Malayalam 1. kurukkante pennukettu 'fox's wedding' (Thomas Paikeday)

    Norwegian 1. A sunshower on one's wedding day is auspicious for the bride. (Oktor Skjaervo)

    Oromo 1. warabisi hindala 'the hyena is giving birth'

    Polish 1. Slonce swieci, deszczyk pada, Baba Jaga maslo sklada; Deszczyk pada, slonce swieci, Baba Jaga maslo kleci 'When the sun is shining and the rain is raining, the witch is making butter' (Hanna Jakubowicz Batoreo)

    Comments: This is a nursery rhyme that I remember from my childhood. "Baba Jaga" is the proper name of the witch from the Polish version of the Grimm's tale of Hazel and her brother. (Hanna Jakubowicz Batoreo)

    Portuguese 1. sol e chuva, casamento de viuva 'sun and rain, widow's wedding' (Brazil--Edson Miyamoto and several others) 2. casamento de raposa 'the vixen's (female fox's) wedding' (Pernambuco and Paraiba, Northeastern Brazil--Leonor Santos; Lynne Murphy) 3. Esta chover e a fazer sol, esta~o as bruxas a fazer pa~o mole 'It is raining and it is shining, The witches are making soft bread' (Jose Pinto de Lima)

    Comments: Since I was a little girl, I have been hearing people refer to these showers here in the Northeastern part of Brazil (States of Pernambuco and Paraba) as "the fox's wedding" or "the widow's wedding". These expressions are usually used when talking to little children, and sometimes there is a short fairy tale to be told when the child seems not to know the expression. [Leonor Santos]

    Romanian 1. plovA eu soare, mIine-i sArbAtoare 'rain and sun, tomorrow is a holiday' (Bucharest--Donca Steriade)

    Russian 1. slepoj dozhd' 'blind/pale rain' [Denis Akhapkine; Evgen'jeva vol. 4, p.136; Vadim Kassevitch; Liudmila Kostiukevich] 2. gribnoj dozhd' 'mushroom rain' [Masha Babyonyshev, Evgen'jeva vol. 1, p.347; Frank Gladney, Natalia Kondrashova; Yuri Ostrovsky; Asya Pereltsvaig] 3. dozhd' popolam s solnyshkom - po utoplennike, libo pravednik pomer "Rain with sunlight deplores a drowned corpse, or death of a man of virtue" (Dal' 1989: 2, 452). 4. carevna plachet 'XX' (Frank Gladney--see note 6)

    Comments: 1. In my opinion gribnoj dozhd' (in the meaning of 'sunshower') is a rather new expression. I've certainly heard it. But it is usually used by rather young people living in towns. In villages gribnoj dozhd' is any warm rain (with or without sunlight) i.e. it is a hyperonim for sunshower. [Denis Akhapkine] 2. gribnoj dozhd' is in common use, at least in the Northern parts of Russia, but the meaning is different; it refers to a light rain or, rather, drizzling (which is believed to be good for mushrooms to grow, hence the use of the word gribnoj). [Vadim Kassevitch] 3. I don't know the official etymology of gribnoj dozhd', but folk belief is that it is called this way because it presents ideal conditions for mushroom growing -- a combination of moisture and warmth. Since mushroom collecting is one of the favourite Russian pastimes, this is how Russians look at this weather phenomenon. [Natalia Kondrashova] 4. In Russian, slepoj 'blind' sometimes means 'pale', e.g. slepaja pechat', literally 'blind print', which refers to being unable to read a text because it is illegible or pale. [Denis Akhapkine] 5. I think the explanation [for some people using 'mushroom rain' and some using 'pale rain'] is to be found "in the world" rather than in the language. The thing is that precisely two things are needed for mushrooms to grow well, i.e. moisture (=rain) AND sufficiently high temperature (=sun). This seems to provoke a rapprochement between slepoj dozhd' and gribnoj dozhd'. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, no standard dictionary gives identical glosses to the two collocations, nor does my personal experience agree with equating them. (Vadim Kassevitch) 6. In the 17-vol. dictionary at _slepoj_, they say it's dozhd' idushchij pri solnce and give a citation from Paustovskij: O slepom dozhde, idushchem pri solnce, v narode govorjat: "Carevna plachet". (Frank Gladney)

    Rutoro 1. 'the leopard is taking her daughter to get married' (Mike Wilson-Uganda)

    Serbian (?) 1. Cigani se xene 'gypsies are getting married' (Igor Milosavljevic, who adds "I am not sure which language in the former Yugoslavia brought it forth, Serbian or another.") 2. padaju ciganyiki 'it's raining little gypsies' (Cvijeta Jaksic, who heard this in 1965 or 1966 in Novi Sad, a city northwest of Belgrade in Vojvodina. They add that "I am not sure that it refers to 'sunshower' and not, for example to a snow flurry.") 3. djavoli se zhene 'the devils are getting married' [according to Lada Popovic, this expression is used for a major blizzard or snowstorm.] 4. tonja [meaning not provided--something like 'flood'?] (Tuzla, northern Bosnia--Miroslav Asic)

    Spanish 1. llueve con sol, se casa una vieja 'Rain with sun, an old woman marries' (San Rafael de Ojo de Agua, Argentina--James Fidelholtz; Uruguay--Elisa Steinberg) 2. la venada esta' dando crio OR la venada esta' teniendo un bebe' OR la venada esta' pariendo 'the doe is giving birth' (Costa Rica--Rick McCallister) 3. Las conejas estan pariendo 'the rabbits are giving birth' (Mexico-Alex Sepulveda) 4. Llueve y hace sol, anda el diablo en Ferrol 'It's raining and the sun is shining, the devil is going to Ferrol' (Galicia--Maite Taboada) 5a. estan casando una bruja 'they are marrying a witch' (Puerto Rico--heard by Barbara Avila-Shah from her grandmother) 5b. una bruja se esta casando 'a witch is getting married' (Puerto Rico-Shari Cole) 6. van a pagar los tramposos 'cheating people or swindlers are going to pay (Mexico--Rosa Garcia)

    Sundanese 1. hujan poyan 'sunny rain' (West Java, Indonesia--Ben Zimmer)

    Swahili 1. mvua iki-nyesha wakati jua limetoka tembo/simba anaoa rain if.coming-down while sun is.out elephant/lion is.getting.married 'if it rains while the sun is shining, the elephant/lion is getting married' (Tanzania; the man who provided this expression noted that 'getting married' is commonly understood as a euphemism for 'having sex' in this context)

    Tigrinya 1. w9Haria welida 'the fox is giving (gave?) birth'

    Turkish 1. sheytanlar du"ghu"n yapIyor 'the devils are getting married' (Zihni Sener)

    Wolof 1. bu de tau dinach legi domi buki de 'when it's raining and the sun is shining, the hyena's child is going to die' (cabbie from Dakkar, Senegal)

    Zaza 1. shilia lu^ya 'fox rain' (Huseyin Aktas) 2. wywe lu^ya 'foxes wedding' (Huseyin Aktas)

    Zulu 1. 'monkey's wedding' (Lynne Murphy)

    Miscellaneous African languages in Nigeria, Uganda, and elsewhere use 'the leopard is giving birth'. (I'm sorry I don't have the exact forms and locations at the moment.)

    Contributors Denis Akhapkine <> Arto Anttila <> Amalia Arvaniti <> Miroslav D. Asic <> Barbara Avila-Shah <> Benjamin Barrett <> Hanna Jakubowicz Batoreo <> Fred Baube <> Paola Beninca' <> David Boruma <> Bert Bultinck <> Thalia Chantziara <> George Cole <> Shari L Cole <> Dave Cragg <> Alexis Dimitriadis <> Paul Fallon <> Gabor Fencsik <> James L. Fidelholtz <> Susan Fischer <> Rosa J. Garcia Barragan Cordova <> Paul Geraghty <> Frank Gladney <> Lynne Hewitt <> Alex Housen <> Shin Ja Hwang <> Edit Jakab <> Cvijeta Jaksic <> Damir Kalogjera <> Vassil Karloukovski <> Vadim B. Kassevitch <> Hyoung-youb Kim <> Natalia Kondrashova <> Liudmila Kostiukevich <> Mai Kuha <> Johanna Laakso <> Chungmin Lee <> Michal Lisecki <> Rick McCallister <> Peter McGraw <> Miriam Meyerhoff <> Igor Milosavljevic <> Edson Miyamoto <> Lynne Murphy <> Timothy Ostler <> Thomas Paikeday <> Phoevos Panagiotidis <> Asya Pereltsvaig <> Jose Pinto de Lima <> Lada Popovic <> Xose L. Regueira <> Irina Rempt <> Niina Ripatti <> Leonor Santos <> Thomas F. Shannon <> Elisa Steinberg <> Maite Taboada <> Pius ten Hacken <> Sijmen Tol (?) <> Wim Vandenbussche <> Miguel Carrasquer Vidal <> Ben Zimmer <>