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In the speech after toasting at the dinner party hosted by President of the Republic of Korea subsequent to the Meeting of Three-country (China, Japan and Korea - in Alphabetic order) Leaders held in Seoul on November 1st, President Park of the Republic of Korea addressed that three countries can establish closer relationship by promoting mutual trust and cooperation as a common Oriental proverb, “the ground becomes more solid after going through a heavy rainfall” goes.

“雨降って地固まる ‐ the ground becomes solid after a heavy rain” is a very popular saying in Japan, and possibly both in China and Korea, to describe the familiar fact that things turn out better and relationship becomes much closer after going through a span of discords and quarrels like a married couple.

Are there counterpart proverbs in English to “the ground becomes solid after a heavy rain”?

  • 1
    Does the proverb mean that all kinds of meaningless bad feelings, animosity, misunderstanding, etc - all things that are counterproductive - get washed away by heavy rainfall, and what remains is good will and a clean slate? Please clarify. – Ricky Nov 2 '15 at 1:18
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    Of course in parts of California the ground washes away after a heavy rain. – Hot Licks Nov 2 '15 at 1:38
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    darkest hour is just before the dawn (Not an exact match, but still!) – Færd Nov 2 '15 at 3:23
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    I'm confused by this proverb because my experience is that after a heavy rain, the ground gets muddier, sloppier, squishier, and very much LESS solid -- especially during spring (i.e. "mud season"). I realize it's a metaphor, but I'm having a hard time picturing what the concept of "things getting better after a period of difficulty" is being compared to. ("After a heavy rain, watch out for the shin-deep mud" wouldn't make for a very good proverb, but it's good practical advice in a non-metaphorical sense.) Am I looking at this the wrong way? – LindaJeanne Nov 3 '15 at 14:54
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    @LindaJeanne While I agree, once the ground dries it's usually more hard-packed than it was before (like when you have a freshly-potted plant in fluffy dirt, then you water it and the dirt gets all compacted). – JAB Nov 3 '15 at 17:19

11 Answers 11

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Maybe "April showers bring May flowers," meaning that "a period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness and joy."

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    Not bad, actually. – Ricky Nov 2 '15 at 1:57
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    This is often meant literally. Is that the same for the Japanese idiom? – trlkly Nov 2 '15 at 19:45
  • I think you should add Wiktionary's definition in your answer, it's very appropriate: that a period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness and joy. – Mari-Lou A Nov 3 '15 at 8:41
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    @trlkly - it can be meant literally, but is also very often used figuratively too – Jon Story Nov 3 '15 at 10:02
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    While "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is good, this is better because it keeps the allusion to rain, which may be important in the translation. – trlkly Nov 4 '15 at 17:03
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Consider,

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger or That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger

: used to express the sentiment that hardship or difficult experiences build moral character. Wiktionary

雨降って地固まる (ame futte ji katamaru) “The rain falls, the ground hardens” is what this phrase is telling us. Basically, numerous storms and downpours will cause the soil to toughen up. We should, however, remember that rain is often associated with feelings of sadness and pain. So if that pain causes our own selves to toughen up, we can say that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Green Tea Graffiti

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    I think this is the best answer: even though, in real life, what doesn't kill you can leave you with chronic health problems, this is the closest idiom. – Max Williams Nov 2 '15 at 14:51
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    @MaxWilliams And, in real life, rain doesn't always make the ground harder. – trlkly Nov 2 '15 at 19:46
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I would suggest using "every cloud has a silver lining":

Every difficult or sad situation has a comforting or more hopeful aspect, even though this may not be immediately apparent:

The 3-way relationships among the countries have strained over the past years because of some territorial and historical issues. I think Park mentioned the proverb to mean that "there is still a silver lining (hope/solid ground) even though they are going through clouds (heavy rain: difficulty and uncertainty in reaching any agreement on those issues)."

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

  • Though not exact, this more closely captures my reading of the original as "things will get better after hardship" than, say the "What doesn't kill you..." response. – TripeHound Nov 2 '15 at 17:02
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One that I hear from time to time:

It's always darkest before the dawn.

Meaning, "even when things seem terrible, a change for the good may be just around the corner." The nuance is quite different of course, and it has a bit of melodrama baked in, which may not match the apparent subtlety of the original.

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    I've always disliked this phrase, just cause it's so obviously untrue! It's darkest in the middle of the night, and gets progressively lighter until the dawn... – Beejamin Nov 3 '15 at 0:57
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    Well, it is the coldest right before dawn. So there is an element of truth there, maybe :) – Wolfie Inu Nov 3 '15 at 6:53
  • @Beejamin the expression is metaphorical, similar to one's/your darkest hour, the moment when it seems all hope has abandoned us. – Mari-Lou A Nov 3 '15 at 8:50
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    @Mari-LouA - I do get it, but I think it's just a failed metaphor: it doesn't help understand the underlying meaning of "Things will get better just when you think they can't get any worse", because when you think of the night just before the dawn, it's clearly not the darkest bit. Imagine if the saying was "The ocean is deepest nearest the beach"... – Beejamin Nov 3 '15 at 22:07
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    @Beejamin This does depend how dawn is defined, which is not widely agreed upon or accepted. One could reasonably say that if there were already perceptible levels of light, dawn had already begun making this phrase reasonably true but also making dawn very early in the morning. – Vality Nov 4 '15 at 10:52
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I can't find an authoritative origin to the phrase, I know that Nixon used it and I've found many attributions to the ubiquitous "chinese proverb", but another phrase with a similar meaning is:

The (strongest/toughest) steel is forged in the hottest fire

  • This is by far the best response to the presented question and also the most accurate according to my personal interpretation of the original proverb. – JCG Nov 4 '15 at 6:57
  • This is the best answer! – RedDevil Nov 5 '15 at 10:20
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In the specific context of what the president of Korea wanted to say, the best English equivalent is probably

We've (already) been through so much together.

This is used in real life (and probably rather more frequently in dramas) as one member of a relationship or strong friendship to encourage the other when there are problems.

To include the element of adversity, I'd say

United by adversity

But I suspect the president would not have wanted to use anything as negative as that.

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One I haven't heard much, but really like is:

Go through fire to come out gold

A quick google seems to link it to this poem.

There also seem to be biblical links.

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Try "After a storm comes a calm" or conversely, and understood in the same way "The calm before the storm".

(http://issuu.com/samiabftima/docs/the_concise_oxford_dictionary_of_proverbs)

(http://www.bsswebsite.me.uk/History/AncreneRiwle/AncreneRiwle2.html)

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    nah, although parallel, this phrase doesn't capture the meaning... – RedDevil Nov 2 '15 at 7:10
  • I've only ever heard before the storm, never after the storm... the expression means "be wary when it's calm, because it won't stay calm for long". – Beejamin Nov 3 '15 at 22:09
  • @Beejamin After a storm..., is archaic, however it seems to me that the expression After a storm... means "After difficult times comes peace", and the expression *before the storm represents "a lull in conflict". – JCG Nov 4 '15 at 6:49
  • @RedDevil How would the above interpretations not capture the same meaning as the presented question? – JCG Nov 4 '15 at 6:51
  • A lull in conflict is more likely to be "In the eye of the storm", no? – Beejamin Nov 4 '15 at 10:25
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This may be too strong for a formal speech, but privately they could quote Winston Churchill et al:

If you're going through hell, keep going.

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    "If you want to quote a great statesman, it may be best to quote something he is reliably recorded as having actually said". - Winston Churchill (2015, channelled by RGB) – RedGrittyBrick Nov 3 '15 at 15:40
  • touché @RedGrittyBrick ! – k1eran Nov 4 '15 at 21:42
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This might not be the exact desired meaning, but

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs

meaning disruption often precedes an improved outcome.  This differs from the “rain” proverb in that the breaking of the eggs doesn’t cause the omelette to come into existence, but only allows it (i.e., it is a necessary part of the process).

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    The first use in English is "It was remarked to him that he had caused the death of a great many persons. Yes, he replied, omlets are not made without breaking eggs." and as the Slate article linked to by your Wiktionary link points out, breaking eggs has usually referred to people sacrificed. Fictionally, it is often put into the mouths of villains and the callous, and historically Time attributed a use of it to a Soviet leader dismissing news coverage the Stalinist purges. I would not encourage anyone to use this phrase about themselves. – prosfilaes Nov 3 '15 at 18:40
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From Adversity comes Opportunity

its not that common in usage (and is originally a quote from Benjamin Franklin that I've seen used several times, particularly by journalists after the financial crash of 2008), but I think it conforms to your meaning in a way that "Every cloud has a silver lining" doesn't quite capture.

protected by waiwai933 Nov 3 '15 at 18:37

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