Of all the strange idioms we have in the English language, this one is definitely at the very strange end of the spectrum. For those not native speakers, or just not familiar with the term, it really means when something bad happens, it’s not just bad, it’s really, really bad!
In some ways it is actually very strange that we use this expression in the UK as in meteorological terms, we are quite the opposite in the British Isles and in reality we are far more likely to have damp, drizzle, persistent rain or the odd cloudburst rather than continuous days of monsoon like pouring rain.
In the UK we actually seem to specialise in non descript weather and this is to our disadvantage. Go to a country like Canada where consistently the winter temperatures are acutely sub zero night and day and you will find it’s all taken in their stride.
Underground heated shopping malls, spectacularly efficient and monster sized snow clearing equipment and as a standard for most cars the capability to plug in ‘ car style electric blankets’ to protect the engines and remote control devices that allow the car to be started from inside your home to let it warm up (but keep the doors locked).
And it is not just winter weather. When we have a hotter than average summer, most of our public buildings and almost all homes will not have any form of air conditioning unlike their Mediterranean or North American counterparts. Result…during a heatwave people struggle to sleep or be productive in the workplace.
And if you think it’s just the weather, we struggle with seasonal variations of the environment. The UK rail system is notorious for problems with ‘leaves on the line’…somehow we are almost unique in the world that our trains struggle with mashed up damp leaves!
We are by nature a stoic nation and when the current generation grumble about these challenges, the parental generation is often quick to retort with…it was worse in my day!
Probably very true, but in the same way that we eradicated the black death and other historical ailments, our present day objective must be to facilitate our managing the challenges thrown at us rather than just grudgingly accepting them.
I think the fact that we are no longer wandering the earth wearing loin cloths and carrying a club demonstrates our success to date!