The Rain in Spain
The song is a key turning point in the plotline of the musical. Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering have been drilling Eliza Doolittle incessantly with speech exercises, trying to break her Cockney accent speech pattern. The key lyric in the song is "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain", which contains five words that a Cockney would pronounce with an [aɪ] – more like "eye" than the Received Pronunciation diphthong [eɪ]. With the three of them nearly exhausted, Eliza finally "gets it", and recites the sentence with all long-a's. The trio breaks into song, repeating this key phrase as well as singing other exercises correctly, such as "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen", and "How kind of you to let me come", in which Eliza had failed before by dropping the leading 'H'. According to The Disciple and His Devil, the biography of Gabriel Pascal by his wife Valerie, it was Gabriel Pascal who introduced the famous phonetic exercises "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" and "In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen" into Pygmalion in 1938, the first of which wound up leading to the song in My Fair Lady.
Spanish rain does not actually stay mainly in the plain. It falls mainly in the northern mountains. In Spanish, the phrase was translated as La lluvia en Sevilla es una maravilla (The rain in Seville is marvelous). Likewise, it is considered technically incorrect that hurricanes ever in fact happen in Hertford, Hereford, or Hampshire (in the UK), as the only hurricane force (≥64 knot) winds occurring in these areas are due to extratropical cyclones which, in spite of having hurricane force winds, are not strictly speaking hurricanes due to their different physical causes and dynamics.
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The musical has been translated into many languages, with Eliza speaking Berlin, Vienna, Stockholm, Göteborg, Amsterdam, and Budapest dialects. Here is the equivalent of "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" in various languages:
- Afrikaans: "Die Spaanse maan het in sy baan gaan staan"
- Arabic: "سيدتي الجميلة: أنت القلب الكبير..أنت نعمة وإحسان..بنعمتك تختال علينا "
- Chinese: "西班牙的雨大多數落在平原上"
- Czech: "Déšť dští ve Španělsku zvlášť tam kde je pláň"
- Danish: "En snegl på vejen er tegn på regn i Spanien"
- Dutch (Version 1 and 3): "Het Spaanse graan heeft de orkaan doorstaan"
- Dutch (Version 2): "De franje in Spanje is meestal niet oranje"
- Estonian: "Hispaanias on hirmsad vihmahood"
- Finnish (Version 1): "Vie fiestaan hienon miekkamiehen tie"
- Finnish (Version 2): "En säiden tähden lähde Madridiin"
- French: "Le ciel serein d'Espagne est sans embrun"
- French (Quebec) : "La plaine madrilène plait à la reine"
- German: "Es grünt so grün wenn Spaniens Blüten blühen"
- German: "Es blüht so grün wie Blüten blüh'n im Frühling"
- Hebrew: "ברד ירד בדרום ספרד הערב" ("Barad yarad bidrom sfarad haerev": Hail fell in southern Spain this evening.)
- Hungarian: "Lenn délen édes éjen édent remélsz"
- Icelandic (Version 1): "Á Spáni hundur lá við lund á grund"
- Icelandic (Version 2): "Á Spáni er til að bili þil í byl"
- Italian (original performance on stage): "In Spagna s'è bagnata la campagna"
- Italian (film version): "La rana in Spagna gracida in campagna"
- Italian (later performances on stage): "La pioggia in Spagna bagna la campagna"
- Japanese: "スペインの雨は主に平原に降る。"
- Korean: "스페인 평원에 비가 내려요"
- Marathi: "Ti Phularaani"
- Norwegian (Version 1): "Det gol og mol i solen en spanjol"
- Norwegian (Version 2): "De spanske land har alltid manglet vann"
- Persian: "باران در سپاین می بارد فراوان"
- Polish: "W Hiszpanii mży, gdy dżdżyste przyjdą dni"
- Portuguese (Version 1): "O rei de Roma ruma a Madrid"
- Portuguese (Version 2): "Atrás do trem as tropas vem trotando"
- Russian (Version 1): "Того и жди, пойдут в Испании дожди" ("Tovo i zhdi, poydut v Ispanii dozhdi")
- Russian (Version 2:) "В Севилье град крупнее, говорят" ("F Sevilye grat krupneye, govaryat")
- Spanish (Version 1): "La lluvia en Sevilla es una pura maravilla"
- Spanish (Version 2): "La lluvia en España bellos valles baña"
- Spanish (Mexican cast) "El rey que hay en Madrid se fue a Aranjuez"
- Swedish: "Den spanska räven rev en annan räv"
- Swedish (version 2): "Nederbörden och skörden" ("All nederbörd förstörde körsbärsskörden")
- Turkish: "Ispanya’da yağmur, her yer çamur"
- Ukrainian: "Дощі в Афінах частіше йдуть в долинах" ("Doshchi v Afinah chastishe jdut' v dolynah")
Usage in popular culture
- In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Accent You Hate", Dexter, along with two other kids, try to pronounce the phrase "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" correctly without their significant accents (one kid is Irish, the other is French) or else they would get beaten up by a bully who hates "funny accents."
- In the Family Guy episode "One If by Clam, Two If by Sea", Stewie tries to teach a girl to lose her Cockney accent. Together, he and Eliza sing a parody, "The Life of The Wife is Ended by the Knife."
- The satirical revue Forbidden Broadway set up playwright David Mamet as being exasperated with Madonna's acting style with the lyrics, "I strain in vain to train Madonna's brain." The song is included on the album Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 2.
- The Simpsons episode "My Fair Laddy" is itself a parody of My Fair Lady, and includes the song "Not On My Clothes" (with the lyrics, "What flows from the nose does not go on my clothes").
- Parodied on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends as "The Sleet in Crete Stays Neatly in the Street".
- In the House episode "97 Seconds", Dr. Wilson says to House "Interestingly, the rain in Spain doesn't actually fall in the plain all that much."
- In Gilmore Girls, Lorelai Gilmore remarks, "Oh no, it's raining in Spain! But since the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain...", to which Rory replies, "...looks like Italy for us.", when discussing their trip to Europe with Emily and Richard Gilmore.
- In an episode of the US version of Whose Line Is It Anyway, Colin Mochrie recites the following joke in which the punchline parodies the song title: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer, dead at 53. I know, it is sad. Over Barcelona, today, the famed reindeer was hit by a flock of seagulls and a 747. Eyewitnesses report that the Reindeer in Spain was hit mainly by the plane."
- The song "If It's Love" by Train contains the lyric "We can travel to Spain where the rain falls mainly on the plain, sounds insane."
- In Stephen King's book The Gunslinger he writes a parody titled The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain. King's novel Salem's Lot also features his changed lyrics recited by Mark Petrie.
- Featured in the Gossip Girl episode "New Haven Can Wait".
- In 2012, a punk rock version of "The Rain in Spain" was featured in comedy-musical TV series Glee, episode "Choke". The song was performed by Mark Salling (as his character Puck) and the guys of the series' fictional glee club New Directions.
- In Recess, Gretchen Grundler teaches a kindergartener that "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the moist temperate zone northwest of the Pyranees mountains."
- Pascal, Valerie, "The Disciple and His Devil," McGraw-hill, 1970. p. 83.
- Almagor, Dan, ""Barad yarad bidrom sfarad: How "The Rain in Spain" Fell in Eretz-Israel," Israel Review of Arts and Letters, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA.org), November 19, 1998.
- Musicalmuzeum.hu - Lyrics of "Lenn délen édes éjen édent remélsz!"]
- The Internet Movie Transcriptions Database, "Family Guy S3 E1-11."
- Planet Family Guy, "Subtitle Scripts."
- Kilian, Michael, "Offing Broadway Satirical Revue Grows Into A Star-Bashing Biggie," Chicago Tribune, 6 November 1988, p. 28. (Full Text)
- Kuchwara, Michael, "Alessandrini zeroes in on next Broadway target ," Knight-Ridder, 5 March 2000.
- Clausen, Alf and Michael Price, "Not On My Clothes," T C F Music Publishing, Inc., 2006.
- Stephen King (2011). Salem's Lot. Random House. p. 653.