Friday, July 20, 2012

Slang of the Day:1 Devilish Domestic Dispute

This is our time of summer storms: often in the afternoon, often torrential, sudden, brief, usually highly localized.2 The storms are often so localized that one can be in the midst of a downpour and see the sun shining a few blocks away — or vice versa. And not infrequently, as the rain pours straight down and the light slopes in diagonally, it rains as the sun shines. I was at a shindig recently, sitting outside with a bunch of folks. The sun was shining. And it started drizzling. And I mentioned, "The devil's beating his wife." This brought puzzled responses from a number of fellow shindiggers. They'd never heard the expression. But back in ol' Virginie (rendered in Appalachian geezer-speak), that's what we said: 
Raining while sunny = Devil's beating his wife. 
I have no knowledge of the phrase's origin (and for the moment, I choose not to Google it). But the pattern of puzzled vs. non-puzzled responses led me to wonder if the saying was regional. Data points:
  • We say it in Virginia.
  • Memphibians at the party also knew the phrase.
  • The Detroiters seemed to be in the "never heard it" camp. (For complex rock 'n' roll reunion reasons, there was a high ratio of Detroiters present.)
  • I've heard the phrase here in New Orleans (though it's possible I was usually the one saying it).
A Southern thing? We lack sufficient data for meaningful extrapolation. So I ask you: Do you know the phrase? And where y'at? Slimbo-minions, bring me data!

1 Hey, look! The last "Slang of the Day" was just a couple of days ago. So our micro-series is almost daily. Bi-daily? (That prefix confuses me. Every two days? Then is there another prefix for twice a day?)

2 We get torrential rains other times of year, but the pattern is usually different: organized bands of storms moving west to east, bringing long steady downpours which last for hours. (I'm a bit of a weather nerd, fond of checking the radar.) But these summer storms just bloom up out of nowhere — little yellow, orange, and red blobs — and then shrink away again just as quickly.

9 comments:

  1. My mother always said the "Devil's beating his wife." Is it possible you heard the phrase from your father and not a native Virginian?

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    1. Well, dang! Now I'm not sure at all. Virginia? New Orleans? Two of our already few data points are now muddled. Will we ever know!

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  2. Of course, as soon as I write up a post about our little blooming summer storms, we get two days (so far) of those massive sweeping all-day bands I was talking about.

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  3. Anonymous3:55 PM

    It's common in New Orleans. I've heard it all my life. Must be Southern.

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  4. Teresa4:39 PM

    Never heard it. But it doesn't rain in Cali.

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    1. Oh, Slimbo heard this from a native Virginian alright. I(his mere)am one and I have heard that phrase from my days as a wee one!!

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  5. Kirsten in Chi-town9:56 PM

    haven't heard this ever - in Nebraska or Chicago-area...

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  6. I know of it only from reading Levon Helm's extraordinary memoir "This Wheel's On Fire" (?) or maybe somewhere on the web a while back.

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  7. Okay. Virginia, Memphis, New Orleans, Arkansas (Levon Helm) — yes. Detroit, California, Nebraska, Chicago — no. I'm going with Southern.

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