Raining like a tall cow.
January 27, 2010 12:28 AM   Subscribe

Where does expression "raining like a tall cow" come from?

Meteorologist Mike Pechner was quoted in the SF Chronicle saying "This is the time of year when it should be raining like a tall cow," in reference to this being an El Nino year.

I am interested in what exactly this means and where such a strange expression comes from.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/16/BAF41BH7HI.DTL#ixzz0dncIoO0d
posted by Mayhembob to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe it means that a tall cow pisses more, over more ground, than does a short cow.
posted by dfriedman at 12:31 AM on January 27, 2010

Starting with your phrase, I found, "raining like a tall cow pissing on a flat rock" in at least two places on the webternets. The first is from a West Virginia blog as a strange local phrase, and the second says it was in James Jones's "From Here to Eternity."

I can't vouch for the reliability of either link, but at the least, it shows that it seems to come from a longer phrase.
posted by The Potate at 1:05 AM on January 27, 2010

I guess the guy can't say 'This is the time of year when it should be pissing it down', so he's replaced it with the euphemistic 'tall cow' stuff. If you've ever seen a cow micturate, they excrete a hell of a lot of urine in a very short space of time.
So, heavy rain. Slight chance of cow pats.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:59 AM on January 27, 2010

I've definitely heard my father say "raining like a cow/horse peeing on a flat rock", and that was in New Enland as opposed to West Virginia.

As for why they say "tall cow" -- fluids poured from a great height tend to hit the ground with harder force. The "tall" could just be emphasizing the particulary driving nature of the rain.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on January 27, 2010

Have you ever seen a cow piss? Holy shit.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:21 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The common Southern saying is "raining like a tall cow pissing on a flat rock".

Video aid

Now, imagine that same cow, only taller, and evacuating it's bladder while standing over a large, flat rock commonly found in some farm terrains.

My grandfather raised dairy cows. I can vouch from personal experience that the pissing of a tall cow on a flat rock means damn-near endless amounts of piss coming out hard, and splashing the hell everywhere.

Put me off beef for a month, it did.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:02 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Confirming as a West Virginian that the saying I grew up with is:
"Rainin' like a tall cow pissin' onna flat rock".

Sometimes the "tall" part is left out, what with havin 'them wild mountain cows where 2 legs is longer than tha other 2 legs from grazin' on steep slopes and whatnot.

Also confirming that I have seen said cow piss on said flat rock, and I'm sure that flash floods in the grand canyon have nothing on that level of devastation.

FWIW, a similar but entirely different colloquialism: "Quieter'n a mouse pissin' on cotton."
posted by TomMelee at 6:20 AM on January 27, 2010


"its", not "it's"!

posted by magstheaxe at 6:43 AM on January 27, 2010

Thank you for asking this. I had the same question after reading that article, and did the same google that came up with the full phrase. I even consulted languagehat on the topic.

I guess the meteorologist felt like he couldn't reference pissing in a "family" newspaper. I wonder if meteorologists are taught a selection of folk idioms to use when discussing weather, and if so, how many are too scatological to be used in polite conversation.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:28 AM on January 27, 2010

This is one of those rare idioms that translates, too. Il pleut comme des vaches is a relatively common description in French.
posted by workerant at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2010

For the record, I grew up in the south [Virginia, North Carolina] and never, ever heard this expression. Maybe its more localized than common. Nor have my friends from Georgia and Kentucky.

Strange expression, though.
posted by shesaysgo at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2010

I am 0% a Southerner, never lived anywhere close to South, but I've heard (the longer version) of that phrase.

I thought nearly everyone knew it, but funnily enough I found this forum trying to translate "Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse" into english and no one suggests the obvious, and they're all trying to decipher what the french phrase means, haha.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:41 PM on January 27, 2010

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