Which One Of These Common Idioms Was Originally An Advertising Slogan?
Answer: When It Rains It Pours
When it comes to idioms, it’s incredibly difficult to pin down where the vast majority of them came from. It would be easy (and erroneous), for example, to attribute the idiom “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” to the economist Milton Friedman, who not only used it in economics literature, but even used it as the title of a book in 1975. The phrase predates him significantly, however, and there’s no specifically known originator of the phrase.
That’s what makes the focus of our trivia today so particularly interesting—we know exactly where “when it rains it pours” comes from. Although the phrase today has a negative connotation indicating that bad things tend to flood into your life at once (as in “My car broke down, my office is flooded, and my son just called from the ER… when it rains it pours!”), it was originally an extremely clever and positive marketing slogan.
Historically, on rainy days (or in generally humid climates), table salt poured very poorly as the humidity caused the salt to clump together. In the early 20th century, the Morton Salt Company introduced a significant new development into the industry by adding small amounts of magnesium carbonate to their table salt. The inclusion of the anti-caking agent resulted in salt that would pour freely even when it was humid out, and “When it rains, it pours!” was a brilliant marketing campaign that highlighted the benefits of using Morton brand salt.
While the slogan is still a registered trademark of the company, you won’t frequently find it on their packaging these days. That said, however, it still lives on in the form of Morton’s iconic branding. To this day, Morton table salt features a girl walking in the rain, umbrella held above her head, with a container of salt under her arm pouring freely as she walks because, naturally, when you’ve got a good salt, even when it rains it pours.
Image courtesy of the Morton Salt Company.