“It was raining cats and dogs” is a well-known idiom and although the phrase does mean it’s raining heavily, it has nothing to do with cats and dogs, according to book The Queen’s English. In his book Bernard C Lamb explains that “in idioms, the words taken together have a different meaning from their separate literal meanings”.
My brother sent me a link to The Phrase Finder http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/index.html, which is an excellent website created by Gary Martin; you can look up idioms, as well as phrases, sayings and expressions. A few extracts from the site are as follows:
- More fool you
- What’s not to like
- Mum’s the word
- Jack of all trades
My thoughts: I believe that it’s fine to use idioms in your writing, but as Bernard C Lamb writes “only use idioms that your readers will understand”, which makes sense.
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Bernard C. Lamb The Queen’s English (2010), UK
The Phrase Finder http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/index.html