Even though rain is necessary for life, the fact that raindrops look like teardrops, along with the darkened skies that rain brings with it during the day, make rain an allusion to sorrow or bad luck in many cultures. Let's take a closer look at a couple of familiar sayings about the rain that are really comments about misfortune.
The saying "Into every life a little rain must fall" is nothing more than an observation about the variable nature of life. Just as most of the world experiences both clear and rainy days, a person's life contains both good times and bad:
"Fuck," said Revy. "You mean those bastards ripped us off?"
"Looks that way," said Dutch gloomily, poking fruitlessly around the drop spot. Then he straightened and shrugged. "At least no one got hurt. Into every life, a little rain must fall. Let's just figure we're due some sunshine next time around."
The saying is usually used as Dutch uses it here, as an admonition that one can't reasonably expect good luck every time.
My go-to resource, the Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, says this phrase showed up in 1935. I'm taking that with a several grains of salt, though: the U.S poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) wrote a poem, "The Rainy Day," that contains the following lines:
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Given the poet's lifespan, then, the saying dates back at least to the middle of the 19th century.
Our second proverb also equates rain with misfortune:
"So let me get this straight," said Dutch. "You've got nothing for us to do for the next month?"
Balaiaika shrugged, momentarily disarranging the padded shoulders of her sharp suit. "You have your pick of organizations to blame for it," she said. "The CIA has a team of agents in town, the Thai drug authority is doing a sweep, the local authorities are putting on a crackdown for the goons from the capitol, and I have an agreement with Chang to keep my hands out of the Toppanga shipment. Is there not a saying in English, 'It never rains but it pours?'"
No definite source is known for this phrase, but it's recorded as early as 1726, when a variant was used as part of the title of a book by an author named John Arbuthnot: It Cannot Rain but It Pours; or London Strow'd with Rarities. As Black Lagoon's Russian mobster implies, the saying means that misfortunes seem to come several at a time.
The difference in the two sayings, then, is that "Into every life, a little rain must fall" is used in shrugging off a single misfortune, whereas "It never rains but it pours" notes a run of unhappy events. Choose the appropriate saying on the basis of how much bad luck your characters are experiencing.
- It never rains but it pours (The Phrase Finder)
- Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs by Martin H. Manser, Facts on File Inc., 2002