German phrase of the day: Als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet

German phrase of the day: Als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet
A brave cyclist in the pouring rain in Frankfurt, Hesse, on June 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow
If you have dared to step outside in Germany over the last few days, it's likely you've ended up resembling something closer to a drowned rat than a human. This evocative German phrase describes the kind of weather that leaves you soaked to your skin. 

Germany has been experiencing some fairly apocalyptic weather over the last week. One moment you are lying in the park, bathing in glorious sunshine, the next you are running home, your summer clothes drenched by a sudden downpour. The phrase als hätte der Himmel seine Schleusen geoeffnet translates to ‘as if the heavens had opened their floodgates’ and refers to a heavy, sudden rain shower. 

We have a similar idea in English, and you might have heard the phrase ‘the heavens have opened’ thrown about on a particularly wet day. This idiom evokes the image of an unavoidable cloudburst, from which there is seemingly no shelter. 

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The phrase comes from the idea that this kind of rain is sudden and unavoidable. Usually rain will start falling lightly and then get heavier over time but, if der Himmel seine Schleusen öffnet, the rain seems to come down all at once. It is as if the only thing holding the water back was a gate or door somewhere high in the sky and, once this is opened, the rain is free to pour through and hurtle down to earth. 

You would not use this phrase if it were merely drizzling, instead this idiom refers to the type of rain that clatters down, sometimes even rendering umbrellas useless. If you get caught in this kind of weather, it is best to resign yourself to the fact that you will return home soaked through and dripping with rain. 

Examples

Wir sitzen gerade zufrieden an unserem Lagerfeuer als der Himmel plötzlich seine Schleusen öffnet.

We were sitting happily by the campfire when the heavens suddenly opened. 

Das Wetter war gestern so schlecht, es war als ob der Himmel seine Schleusen geöffnet hat. 

The rain was so bad yesterday, it was raining cats and dogs.


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