Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Idiomatic: Raining Cats and Dogs by Will Moses


Means: Just playing around.

Everyone thought Great-Aunt Zelda was just horsing around when she entered the Derby, but she won!

Few verbal expressions are harder to explain to small children than the common idioms we use to color our speech and convey complex meanings economically. Some, such as "mad as a wet hen," have fairly obvious meanings. The meanings (and origin) of others, such as "can of worms," are almost lost in antiquity. (To open up a "can of worms" may derive from the special bait containers once used to carry live worms, who, if allowed to escape, would be impossible to catch and return to their can.) ,

Will Moses' Raining Cats and Dogs: A Collection of Irresistible Idioms and Illustrations to Tickle the Funny Bones of Young People is a pictorial guide to the true meanings of 48 such English expressions, from "bad egg" to "writing on the wall." Moses not only defines the idiom succinctly, but offers humorous illustrative sentences to show how the expression might be used. For example, to define a "short fuse," Moses says that it means that "someone easily loses his temper--zip!"

But the final bit of meaning comes from Moses' quaint and humorous full- or half-page illustrations, which accompany each idiom. For example...


Means: Being left without a means to survive.
. illustrated by a Moby Dick of a whale on the sea's surface, with a ship's dory high and dry on his back and in which two sailors and their captain are marooned, with this caption....

No food, no map, and now no water! Methinks we've been left high and dry, the captain said.

If there is something vaguely familiar about these primitive Americana-styled illustrations, there is good reason. Will Moses is the great-grandson of Grandma Moses, himself a successful artist in the family style, and his wry, picturesque graphic humor adds much to the fun--and teachability--of the book. His Great-Aunt Zelda, a portly but playfully enthusiastic Derby jockey in her matronly lace-trimmed dress, and his "bad egg" chick just hatched and already in jailbird stripes, offer clever wordplay embedded in visual humor which absolutely nails the exact feeling of the idiom.

Raining Cats and Dogs: A Collection of Irresistible Idioms and Illustrations to Tickle the Funny Bones of Young People is a great read-aloud for English classes or just for browsers who enjoy the double-entendres of the idiomatic expression. Other similar books include grammarian Marvin Treban's Scholastic Dictionary Of Idioms (Revised) (for the serious idiom lover), In a Pickle: And Other Funny Idioms, Mad as a Wet Hen!: And Other Funny Idioms, Punching the Clock: Funny Action Idioms, and Catherine Snodgrass' Super Silly Sayings That Are over Your Head: A Children's Illustrated Book of Idioms. We English speakers have a vast language which can also be a lot of fun to "horse around" with, and we might as well "take the bull by the horns" and enjoy it!

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  • Thanks. i just now ordered Raining Cats and Dogs from the library. My daughter will love it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:45 AM  

  • Thanks to you, Nina.

    By Blogger GTC, at 4:49 PM  

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