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What is the origin of the phrase I'll take a raincheck?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

The literal sense of rain check, which is an Americanism, is first found in the 1880s in reference to a baseball game. The practice of giving a rain check to a ticketholder was formalized in 1890 in the constitution of the National League. In other words, if it rained (something the purchaser had no influence over) and the game was postponed, the ticket holder could come back for another game.

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rain check: (idiomatic) In social interactions, a polite way to turn down an invitation, with the implication one is simply postponing it and that another time would be acceptable.

I can't go with you to the museum this Saturday, but can I take a rain check and go some other day?

Etymology:

The expression may have originated in the era of open-air markets where the occurrence of significant rain usually required a vendor to pack up their goods and leave. The term may also be based on the issuing of tickets to claim property such as a coat or hat check. Before 1889, US baseball fans were issued a new ticket if rain was heavy enough to cause a game to be postponed. Abner Powell added a detachable stub called a rain check that year. This quickly became a standard practice for all major league teams.


rain check (on something):

a reissuance of an invitation at a later date. (Said to someone who has invited you to something that you cannot attend now, but would like to attend at a later time. *Typically: get ~; have ~; take ~; give someone ~.)

We would love to come to your house, but we are busy next Saturday. Could we take a rain check on your kind invitation? Oh, yes. You have a rain check that's good anytime you can come by and visit.

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NOAD reports:

rain check (also raincheck)
noun
A ticket given for later use when a sports event or other outdoor event is interrupted or postponed by rain.
• A coupon issued to a customer by a store, guaranteeing that a sale item that is out of stock may be purchased by that customer at a later date at the same reduced price.

PHRASES
Take a rain check—said when politely refusing an offer, with the implication that one may accept it at a later date: I can’t make it tonight, but I’d like to take a rain check.

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Because literal rainchecks don't exist in the UK as the phrase has gained some use in Britain via film, tv etc here it's at least sometimes taken to mean 'no' rather than 'not now, but later'.

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But the british phrase do exist, I remember have heard the Beatles in a song singing something about a "ticket to rain". Meaning that is a ticket for something that's interchangeable in time. –  Billeeb Dec 9 '10 at 18:32
3  
That was "Ticket to ride", not "ticket to rain". –  Hellion Jan 24 '11 at 5:17
    
Wasn't it a ticket to Ryde, on the Isle of Wight? :) –  Hugo Jan 26 '12 at 7:13

I'll take a rain check (American, British & Australian informal), also, I'll get a rain check (American informal).

Something that you say when you cannot accept someone's invitation to do something but you would like to do it another time (often + on). "I'll take a rain check on that drink tonight, if that's all right." "I won't play tennis this afternoon but can I get a rain check?" (American informal)

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That's the definition of it, but doesn't explain the etymology. –  IQAndreas Apr 30 at 7:01

protected by tchrist Oct 1 '12 at 3:47

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