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Dutch -> English
October 7, 2009 4:52 PM   Subscribe

This proverb has me stumpified...

I recently came across this proverb, attributed to the Dutch:

"Those who dislike cats will be carried to the cemetery in the rain."

I think it's kind of awesome, I just can't figure out what it might mean in American English. Anyone know how it might translate?
posted by shino-boy to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
cats hate getting wet, therefore...
posted by artof.mulata at 4:55 PM on October 7, 2009

maybe it just means that people who dislike cats are doomed to have a terrible funeral?
posted by Think_Long at 5:04 PM on October 7, 2009

Non sequitur?
posted by ZaneJ. at 5:07 PM on October 7, 2009

Interesting saying. After looking around for a bit I found this:

"In mythology, the cat was believed to have great influence on the weather. Witches who rode on storms took the form of cats. The dog, an attendant of the storm king Odin, was a symbol of wind. Cats came to symbolize down-pouring rain, and dogs to symbolize strong gusts of wind. This may be where the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs" originated."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do you have it in the original dutch?
posted by phrontist at 5:26 PM on October 7, 2009

While I tend to see it as a "as a cat is to you, you are to God" type of statement, it is worth noting that rain during a funeral procession is generally seen as a good thing for the deceased, as it indicates they will go to Heaven. Not so great for the people in it, I suppose, but such is life.
posted by Sparx at 5:38 PM on October 7, 2009

I'm sorry, I don't have the Dutch version.
posted by shino-boy at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2009

According to this guy, the original Dutch is "Mensen die niet van katten houden zullen in de regen naar hun graf worden gedragen." But his page is the only google hit for that wording, whereas the English version gets loads of ghits. Either there's a typo or something else nonstandard in his Dutch — I don't speak the language, so I wouldn't notice one — or the English translation is way more widespread than the "authentic" original.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:50 PM on October 7, 2009

A reference to the Black Death or Plague? If you like cats, you have them, and therefore no rats?
posted by idb at 6:12 PM on October 7, 2009

I found this one...

"Beware of people who dislike cats."
Irish proverb

...and maybe the Dutch version is just a bit more poetic.
posted by shino-boy at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2009

I think it means, "If you don't like cats, may it rain at your funeral."
posted by iamkimiam at 6:56 PM on October 7, 2009

well, building on the cat/rain thing, perhaps it means something akin to you will keep encountering the thing you dislike over and over again at your life, even at your funeral?
posted by eleanna at 10:00 PM on October 7, 2009

I think it's more like, "Those who don't like cats, the universe will rain on you all your days, even unto death."
posted by clerestory at 11:28 PM on October 7, 2009

I am a well read Dutch native, and never heard of that proverb.
posted by ijsbrand at 12:57 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

My native Dutch boyfriend says he has never heard the proverb and "can't imagine it being a Dutch saying, to be honest."
posted by transporter accident amy at 4:09 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

You might try contacting the guys who run the Dutch Word of the Day/Dutch Phrase of the Week blog about it.
posted by transporter accident amy at 4:15 AM on October 8, 2009

I am a well read Dutch native as well, and I never heard of that proverb either.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:07 AM on October 8, 2009

I would bet cash money that the "proverb" was made up by somebody who likes cats and attributed to the Dutch (then or later) because proverbs have to come from somewhere and the Chinese quota was filled. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. (The "original Dutch" version was presumably translated to provide the necessary "original"; if it were in fact a Dutch proverb, obviously there would be zillions of hits.)
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just ran it by my Dutch colleague and he also said he has never heard it. Looks like the origin and interpretation will remain a mystery. :) Thanks to all who answered.
posted by shino-boy at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2009

I think that just means we're allowed to use it in whatever way we like, and see if people question us:

"well, you know what they say: 'Those who dislike cats will be carried to the cemetery in the rain.'

(nodding knowingly) "mhmm. definitely"
posted by Think_Long at 5:19 PM on October 8, 2009

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