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Language Arts

Rain Check

Unlike many of the most popular phrases and sayings featured in our articles here on, the meaning and origin behind the old phrase -to take a rain check- is easy to determine. -Rain check- is still commonly used although its origin dates back 100 years ago.

It is not a secret that taking a rain check means to postpone something for a later date whether that be an event or a promise made that has yet to be fulfilled. This popular term's origin is a pretty literal definition of the expression. The commonly-used phrase came to popularity during one of America's favorite pastimes: baseball. A rain check was issued when a baseball game couldn't go on or continue due to getting rained out. The term was quite literal. A tarp would be placed over the field and the teams and crowd would wait and check how long it would take for the rain to stop to see if the game was still playable. If not, the teams would continue the rain check to postpone the game to a later date.  

By the 1970s, the popular baseball term was a household phrase throughout the United States and even outside the country across the world. The earliest use of the term in reference to the game of baseball can be found in an May 1884 publication of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri. This proves how popular baseball was in America even then. 
"The heavy rain yesterday threw a damper over local operations. At each of the parks, the audience had to be content with three innings and rain checks." 
Taking a rain check is now a common phrase used by many individuals throughout the world. An example of the term in use would be:  "Sorry I can't make it to our date on Friday. Can I get a rain check?"
The term "rain check" is also used by stores to describe postponing sales and deals for customers if the product is out of stock during the time of the sale. If the customer would like to take advantage of an item on sale, but it is currently out of stock, some stores will issue a rain check for the item meaning that when it comes back into stock, the customer can still purchase the item for the on-sale price even if the store's sale is over.
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