When you say, “I’ll take a raincheck,” you’re telling someone that you can’t accept his or her offer or invitation now, but you’d be happy to accept it down the road. The phrase can also be used sarcastically, by letting someone know you’d prefer to delay something unpleasant until the future, or as a promise for out-of-stock goods.

But how did this expression make it into our lexicon?

The saying actually comes from baseball. When a game was stopped on account of rain, the disappointed fans were given ‘rain checks’ as vouchers for future games. Of course, the folks running the show didn’t want to lose all of their cash by issuing rain checks, so they did everything they could to keep the teams playing, including slinging tarps over the field when it began to pour and forcing the fans to wait in the stands for a break in the clouds.

The expression has found its way into Australian and British English as well, two countries that play cricket, not baseball. People living Down Under, or in the British Isles, might not have the faintest clue about the American pastime, but if someone offers them a rain check for a postponed sporting event or a fancy dinner party, they’ll sure has heck know what that other person is talking about.

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