Glossary Home Idioms

Rain on someone’s parade

“Rain on someone’s parade” is a clever English idiom that’s used to describe dampening someone’s mood.

This is done through sharing bad news or any other method one might think of. The idiom dated from at least the early 1900s and was popularized in 1964 with the song “Don’t rain on my Parade” by Bob Merrill.


Meaning of “Rain on someone’s parade”

The idiom “rain on someone’s parade” is an interesting and versatile one. It refers to the act of ruining someone’s mood by giving them a piece of information.

It’s something they don’t want to hear, and that shifts how they understand a situation. The “rain” is a symbol for whatever the bad news is, and the “parade” a symbol for the person’s previously optimistic state of mind. Just like rain would ruin a festive parade, so too does this metaphorical rain ruin someone’s metaphorical parade.

When to Use “Rain on someone’s parade”

It’s possible to use “rain on someone’s parade” in a wide variety of situations. It is not defined by any specific event, time, place, or circumstance. This means that any person can find an opportunity to use it. But, this also means that it’s used quite a bit and may not today have the effect it did when it was first coming into common use in the 1900s. Someone might use the phrase “rain on someone’s parade” when they want to chastise another person for their actions. For example, one friend might say to another, “You didn’t have to rain on her parade.”

One person might make fun of another’s excitement, give a piece of unneeded news, or try, on purpose, to ruin another person’s day. These are all examples of situations in which someone might use a version of “rain on someone’s parade.” The word “someone” can be replaced with any possessive pronoun.

A specific example is:

A child is getting ready for school and feeling excited about the clothes they’ve chosen to wear that day. The parent comes into the room and tells them that they look ridiculous and need to change. The child’s mood immediately plummets, and they lose all confidence in their outfit.

This is a prime example of what it means to rain on someone’s parade.

Example Sentences

  • It was only after they rained on his parade that he got upset.
  • This is a perfect example of what it means to rain on someone’s parade.
  • I hope no one comes along and rains on our parade today. I really want to have a good day.
  • She was just being cruel when she rained on his parade.
  • Did you hear what the teacher said to him? She really rained on his parade.


Why Do Writers Use “Rain on someone’s parade?”

Writers use “rain on somebody’s parade” in the same way and for the same reasons that the phrase is used in everyday conversations. As is the case with most idioms, this one is boarding on cliché, something that writers are not fond of when it comes to creating narration or dialogue. There are many different ways to phrase this idiom, so readers shouldn’t be surprised to find some of those versions replacing “rain on someone’s parade.” If a phrase is used too much, it loses its original effect. It no longer sounds interesting or sparks the reader’s imagination.

That being said, it is possible to use this idiom within fiction, non-fiction, drama, and even poetry. It could appear in characters’ dialogue or within a narrator’s depiction of a scene or event.

Origin of “Rain on someone’s parade”

“Rain on someone’s parade” was popularized in 1964 with the song “Don’t rain on my Parade” by Bob Merrill. It appeared in the film Funny Girl, exposing the idiom to its widest audience. But, there are records of the phrase being used before then in different forms. There are a few examples from the early 1900s, such as the Schenectady Gazette from September 1912. In “Sprightly Adventures of Mr. Homesweet Home,” the following quote is used:

[…] would show up to “rain on the parade,” and Mr. Home warned the entire party against letting Horace loose on the veranda of the Pelican Bay House when he first caught sight of the imprints of a pair of French heels […]

“The” is used in this version of the phrase rather than a possessive pronoun like “hers” or “his.” A few years later, there is another example from Narbeth Our Town. It reads:

Far be it from us, oh, patriotic plowmen, to shed rain on the parade, but neither would we have your valorous efforts all in vain! And that is why we are well prepared with all the things which make short-shrift of garden pests and parasite […]

This is a great example of how idioms can change slightly over time. The word “shed” is used in addition to “rain” in this example. This makes the phrase slightly longer and far less pithy.

The Albany Evening News is the source of another example, dating to 1927. The paper published a story called “The Hotel Stenographer.” The quote reads:

“No, Kelly,” the girl spoke patiently. “I am talking about a deuce who is acting like a king over in Italy. It’s going to rain on his parade. … Bachelors are a mighty happy people, Kelly, and old Mussolini must keep them on his side if he wants to prosper.”

As these examples prove, there are several ways that the phrase was used prior to 1964. The idiom likely evolved naturally, being used sometime during the late 1800s for the very first time. But, no clear author or creator can be cited.

FAQs

What is the tone of “rain on someone’s parade?”

It’s a negative phrase, one that alludes to purposefully ruining someone’s day/time. If someone has their parade rained on, then they’re going to be upset. This is important to understand when reading the idiom in context.

Why do people use “rain on someone’s parade?”

People use “rain on someone’s parade” when they want to describe something that’s happened. They might’ve been the one to do the raining, or they might have experienced someone else doing it.

Is “rain on someone’s parade” cliché?

Whether or not an idiom is a cliché is up to the person using it or the person hearing it. For many, any phrase that has an obvious meaning, and is used commonly, is cliché. There are many other ways that one might choose to share the same sentiment without mentioning a parade.

Where did the phrase “rain on someone’s parade” come from?

The phrase has an unknown origin. But, it can be traced back at least to the early 1900s. It was popularized when it appeared in “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Bob Merrill.

Is “rain on someone’s parade” an idiom?

Yes, “rain on someone’s parade” is a great example of an idiom. It is a phrase that needs context to make sense. The individual words do not convey the meaning that is revealed when someone uses the phrase in a real-life or fictional situation.


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