Rain, yŭ. Drizzle, máomao yŭ

The last time the three of us were out in a drizzle—the kind of light, messy rain you don’t realize is happening until you step out into it—Emerson, scrunched inside the increasingly too-small confines of the umbrella stroller (the ideal stroller for subway rides) frowned a little and then commented, “Máomao yŭ.”

I thought she was saying māo, cat, and I paused for a second, trying to figure out if she’d seen a cat, or was pretending to be a cat. Before I could follow down this cat path, though, Rich answered, “Duì de,"—you’re right—”máomao yŭ.“

That was day I learned that while yŭ means rain (a word very close to the word for shark—let’s hope I’m never near to some sharks while it’s raining and so robbed of any context clues) máomao yŭ is a light rain.

Tonight, though, eating pears at the kitchen table while reading books before bed time, I asked her, in English, whether it was raining on her way home from school.

”Máomao yŭ,“ she said matter-of-factly. Finally, I thought to ask Rich if the words translated to something separately.

”Máo is fur,“ he said, seeming to consider the weirdness of that, but then—his expression changing—realizing its perfection. What more visceral a descriptor for the kind of muffled, misting rain one more experiences and endures (than can hold an umbrella to) than "fur rain.”

Looking it up tonight, I also fell a little in love with the written symbol for rain, which (in the noun form) looks like drops falling outside a window.

ps: Let us not overlook the adorableness (and literalness) of the word for cat being essentially the sound a cat makes. Māo