Rain Check

I am really too tired to go out tonight. can I take a rain check? © Ken Hurst | Dreamstime.com

This one confused me no end when I first got to the States.  I had no idea what “to take a rain check” meant until I learned it one day at the supermarket, when my roommate and I wanted to buy something that was on sale but no longer available in the store and so we got a slip of paper saying “rain check”.

In that context “rain check” meant that we could return on a later date and get the product, even if the sale was over, at the reduced price.

The expression is also used in a similar way when it comes to making appointments, dates, invitations or offers.  Example:

Henry: “Do you want to come over to my house and have coffee later today?”

Jessica: “I’d love to but I have an appointment in half an hour.  Can I take a rain check?”

So the original invitation – come over today – was declined with the underlying understanding that Henry and Jessica will have coffee at Henry’s place some time in the not so distant future.

The expression is also used to decline an offer without wanting to be rude.  After the second or third “rain check” Henry will hopefully get the message and stop inviting Jessica over.

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