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The meaning and origin of the expression: Cloud-cuckoo-land


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Cloud-cuckoo-land'?

A realm of fanciful or impractical, idealistic notions.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Cloud-cuckoo-land'?

Cloud cuckoo landIt is nice for once to have a definite and unambiguous origin for an expression. Cloud-cuckoo-land was coined by the 4th century BC Greek playwright Aristophanes in the whimsical and extravagant play, The Birds :

Chorus leader: So what name shall we give our city?
Pisthetairos: Well, do you want to use that mighty name from Lacedaimon - shall we call it Sparta?
Euelpides: By Hercules, would I use that name Sparta for my city? No. I wouldn't even try esparto grass to make my bed, not if I could use cords of linen.
Pisthetairos: All right then, what name shall we provide?
Chorus leader: Some name from around here - to do with clouds, with high places full of air, something really extra grand.
Pisthetairos: Well, then, how do you like this: Cloudcuckooland?

The play was first translated into English by the poet and translator Henry F. Cary, in 1824, which is the date 'cloud-cuckoo-land' entered the language.

In linguistic terms 'cloud-cuckoo-land' is something of a curiosity. Numerous expressions started life as separate words and were later hyphenated (for instance, 'cold-hearted'). Uniquely, 'cloud-cuckoo-land' started as 'cloudcuckooland' and became hyphenated later.

See also; Never-never land.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

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