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I am watching the "Salute to America" parade staged by President Trump to celebrate the American Independence, and and given the weather, I was thinking about the idiom...

"Don't rain on my parade"

It is probably Donald Trump's most fervent prayer at this moment.

What is the origin and first use of this phrase?

I am sure some people will say that Robert Merill came up with it for the Barbara Streisand song, but I am also pretty sure it was in use long before 1964.

  • The earliest hit for "rain on my parade" found by Ngram is the song, in the mid-70s. – Hot Licks Jul 4 at 22:48
  • @HotLicks It is attributed to Robert Merril from the 1964 song by Srteisand, but I see hits going to 1900+ ish – Cascabel Jul 4 at 22:50
  • I didn't see anything prior to the 70s on Ngram. – Hot Licks Jul 4 at 22:59
  • newspapers.com searches show first results in 1964 – RaceYouAnytime Jul 5 at 8:35
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The exact word sequence "Don't Rain on My Parade" probably dates to the song copyrighted in 1963 and popularized in the musical and movie "Funny Girl," but the phrase "rain on (someone's) parade" was commonly understood to mean "spoil (someone's) time" or "disappoint (someone)" as far back as the 1910s and 1920s.

The September 26, 1912, Schenectady Gazette, page 5 contains a short piece called "Sprightly Adventures of Mr. Homesweet Home" about some men on an all-male hunting/camping trip. The piece contains the following sentence:

Warmbody says he knew dog-gon well, some gosh-blamed leftover-from-the-summer hen [ed. -- woman] would show up to "rain on the parade," and Mr. Home warned the entire party against letting Horace loose on the veranda of the Pelican Bay House when he first caught sight of the imprints of a pair of French heels [ed. -- women's shoes] on the path near the boat landing...

The June 21, 1917, Narberth (Pennsylvania) Our Town, page 2 contains an ad for Howard's drug store with the following copy:

Far be it from us, oh, patriotic plowmen, to shed rain on the parade, but neither would we have your valorous efforts all in vain! And that is why we are well prepared with all the things which make short-shrift of garden pests and parasites...

The May 30, 1924, Monroe (Louisiana) News-Star page 8 contains a short fiction piece called "The Tale of the Royal Fisherman" with the following exchange:

"This is the place!" said King Bozo, drawing his trusty fishing rod and preparing to cast a bait into the rippling waters.

"Sire," interrupted the Prime Minister, "far be it from me to rain on the parade, but take a slant at yonder signboard!"

Nailed to the trunk of a whoofis tree was a crude signboard bearing the word: "NO FISHING EERE!"

The January 31, 1927, Albany Evening News page 14 contains a short fiction piece called "The Hotel Stenographer" in which a girl is talking about Mussolini:

"No, Kelly," the girl spoke patiently. "I am talking about a deuce who is acting like a king over in Italy. It's going to rain on his parade. ... Bachelors are a mighty happy people, Kelly, and old Mussolini must keep them on his side if he wants to prosper."

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I couldn't find any instances of "don't rain on [possessive prounoun's] parade" from before February 14, 1964, (in a review of Funny Girl in the [Boston, Massachusetts] Heights), but I did find this interesting precursor from Jack Lait, "Personal and Confidential," in the Morning Tulsa [Oklahoma] Daily World (November 26, 1922):

"Brownson got over it, yes—but that was due to an extraordinary combination of circumstances," he [Walter] told her [Doris]. "It wouldn't do for a young man to follow in his footsteps. The straight road is the best, the shortest, the surest."

"All right, rain-on-the-parade," she replied. "Then put on your earmuffs and your galoshes and slop along by yourself. Me for some man who has life—spirit—pep."

This early instance of "rain-on-the-parade" treats it as the fraternal twin of "stick-in-the-mud." It also provides evidence that the writers of Funny Girl weren't the first to recognize "raining on a parade" as a metaphorical downer.

  • Yes, I thought the usage (as a downer) did precede the song, and so this would qualify as an answer to the etymology. – Cascabel Jul 5 at 20:47
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It appears there is no evidence of usages of the expression “Don’t rain on my parade”, at least in writing, earlier than the well-known 1964 song from the movie “Funny Girl”, Ngram,

and its figurative usage is from the late ‘60s:

Later on, the phrase started to be used in a figurative way. An example of this is seen in a magazine called Mademoiselle, 1969:

  • “And the next day, when five members of Parliament drop into Boston unexpectedly, and the sound system for a dark dedication is lost en route, and it looks like it might rain on her parade, she’ll need that extra time.” (knowyourphrase.com)

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