A Monkey’s Wedding

Photo of a rainbow taken from the Armadale to Mallaig ferry in May 2016 by Simon Ager

On an episode of The World in Words podcast that I listened to today I learnt the expression “a monkey’s wedding“, which is apparently what you call a day when rain falls while the sun is shining, at least if you live in South Africa or Zimbabwe.

As this is quite a common phenomenon in the UK you’d think we’d have a way to refer to it, and apparently we do – a monkey’s birthday. I haven’t heard of this before. Have you?

Apparently the meteorological term for this is sunshower, and sunshowers are often accompanied by rainbows.

Do you have other words for this in English or other languages?

I know that the page about sunshowers on Wikipedia has a list of these terms from around the world, but I’m interested in any you know and use.

10 thoughts on “A Monkey’s Wedding

  1. If I recall correctly, in Spanish one would say “se casa una vieja” (an old woman’s getting married) whenever that happens. This may be a local expression, because I haven’t heard it in Mexico but I’ve heard it from relatives in Rio de la Plata.

  2. I have heard “sunshower” before. In winter, we have “thundersnow” – occasionally there is a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain.

  3. There is a classic “Southern” saying that people will quote in the US: “The devil is beating his wife,” for a sunshower. I’m not sure if this is really used, since I’ve only lived across the North, and have mostly encountered it when people are talking about the Southern American dialect. If memory serves, they mentioned it in that episode of The World in Words as well…

  4. My mother used to call it ‘liquid sunshine’ – i don’t know where that comes from, but I have heard others use it once or twice.

  5. In Tagalog: umaaraw umuulan, kinakasal ang tikbalang (the sun is shining, it’s raining, the tikbalang [creature with a man’s torso and arms and a horse’s legs and head, said to accost travellers on the road and lead them astray] is getting married).

    There’s actually a play that was presented in the Philippines with just that expression as it’s title, about a boy who was invited to the tikbalang’s wedding: it’s easy to find on YouTube. Around the final third, you can hear what I guess is the main song of the play — you can hear another Tagalog expression there: bahaghari (“rainbow”, literally “king’s loincloth”).

    Bert Vaux, a linguist formerly at Harvard and now at Oxford, has put together quite a database of these expressions from languages around the world. They generally have to do with a devil/untrusted ethnic group/trickster animal getting married, (metaphorically/euphemistically) having sex, or having children. WHY this is so is another question. You can find a presentation he did, “Towards a geography of folkloric motifs: the case of the sunshower in Armenia and beyond
    Bert Vaux”, on his academia.edu page.

  6. This from a Kapampangan friend (from the region northwest of Manila — or as he calls it — “infernal Ménilâ”):

    “We say “kákasal la réng tigbálang” or “kákasal la réng Kulariut” when the sun is out while it rains… and no they are not playful tricksters like the Pelandok…

    TIGBÁLANG in Kapampángan folklore usually visit and befriend smart but lonely children and invite them on a journey to the SUMÁNGID a LABUAD ‘the world on the other shore’… many of the children would soon prefer that world over to this one… they become sad and lose their desire to live in this world and stop eating… or they become delusional and crazy…. people say you can tame a TIGBÁLANG if you catch one of it’s hair and command him to take you to far distant lands, including the world on the other shore…

    KULARIUT are known to be fierce fighters… one hero in a Kapampángan legend says that he has an army of only 5 Kulariut that defeated thousands… they are quite aloof and hard to befriend… but become most loyal if befriended… they are afraid of the colour red… will change appearance when angered, lose their handsomeness/prettiness and look more demonic… the way to control a KULARIUT is to steal his loincloth (hahaha) and use it as a banner…”

  7. In Brasil we say “sol e chuva, casamento de viúva”, or “sun and rain, widow’s wedding”, to which the reply is “chuva e sol, casamento de espanhol” – “rain and sun, Spaniard’s wedding”.

  8. Funny that the wedding metaphor is so common – the joining of (apparently) irreconcilable phenomena.

  9. We have a lot of Monkey’s Wedding here in Brazil. It’s a common phenomenon. This podcast was wonderful.

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