Cloud cuckoo land

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Cloud Cuckoo Land refers to a state of absurdly over-optimistic fantasy or an unrealistically idealistic state where everything is perfect. The term "to live in cloud cuckoo land" is used for a person who thinks that things that are completely impossible might happen, rather than understanding how things really are.[1] It also hints that the person referred to, is naïve, unaware of realities or deranged in holding such an optimistic belief.

Cockaigne, the land of plenty in medieval myth, can be referred to as the modern day cloud cuckoo land. It was an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts and pleasures were always immediately at hand and where the harshness of medieval peasant life did not exist.


Literary sources

Aristophanes, a Greek playwright, wrote and directed a drama The Birds, first performed in 414 BC, in which Pisthetaerus, a middle-aged Athenian persuades the world's birds to create a new city in the sky to be named Cloud Cuckoo Land[2] (Νεφελοκοκκυγία{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}, Nephelokokkygia), thereby gaining control over all communications between men and gods.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer used the word (German Wolkenkuckucksheim{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}) in his publication On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in 1813,[3] as well as later in his main work The World as Will and Representation[4] and in other places. Here, he gave it its figurative sense by reproaching other philosophers for only talking about Cloud-cuckoo-land.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche refers to the term in his essay "On Truth and Lying in a Nonmoral Sense."

Author Edward Crankshaw used the term when discussing the Deak-Andrassy Plan of 1867 in his 1963 book The Fall of the House of Habsburg (Chapter 13, "The Iron Ring of Fate").

Uses in Politics

  • Adolf Hitler used the phrase in Mein Kampf to describe the proposals of his political opponents. Treating the rest of the world as a gentlemen’s club of fine fellows engaged in a bit of harmless bartering over a little bigger piece of the pie has proven to be a policy guide from what the Germans call das Wolkenkuckkucksheim, or cloud cuckoo land."[5]
  • Margaret Thatcher famously used this phrase in the 1980s: "The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation... Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land."[6]
  • Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher's spokesman, who, when asked if the ANC might overthrow the white government of South Africa by force, replied: "It is cloud-cuckoo land for anyone to believe that could be done". [7]
  • Ann Widdecombe, British MP used the phrase in a debate on drug prohibition with a representative of Transform Drug Policy Foundation: " is cloud cuckoo land to suggest that [people who don't currently use heroin would not start using it if it became legal]". [8]
  • Newt Gingrich referred to Barack Obama's claim that algae could be used as a fuel source as cloud cuckoo land. [9]
  • Paul Krugman used the phrase referring to inadequate German economic politics toward failing members of the European Union: "Basically, it seems that even as the euro approaches a critical juncture, senior German officials are living in Wolkenkuckucksheim — cloud-cuckoo land." (June 9, 2012) . [10]
  • Imran Khan, a sportsman turned politician from Pakistan is said to be living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. With less than one third majority in parliament he claims to be PM and complains of alleged rigging against him in 2013 polls. A Judicial Commission of Supreme Court Judges has turned down all his allegations. He is not even the leader of opposition.[11][12]
  • Henry A. Wallace, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (later U.S. Vice President in Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term) used the term to describe the unrealistically inflated value of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange just before the crash of 1929 that signaled the onset of the Great Depression. In his 1936 book, Whose Constitution? An Inquiry into the General Welfare, Wallace describes a cartoon in a popular weekly magazine which "pictured an airplane in an endurance flight refueling in mid-air, and made fun of the old fashioned economist down below who was saying it couldn't be done. The economic aeroplane was to keep on gaining elevation indefinitely, with the millennium just around a cloud" (p. 75). Wallace wrote that Wall Street's practice of lending money to Europe after World War I "to pay interest on the [war reparations] debts she owed us and to buy the products we wanted to sell her … was the international refueling device that for 12 years kept our economic aeroplane above the towering peaks of our credit structure and the massive wall of our tariff, in Cloud-Cuckoo Land" .

Other uses


  1. "Cloud Cuckoo land". Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  2. "listing of Cloud Cuckoo Land". Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  3. On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason § 34, p. 133.
  4. The World as Will and Representation Vol. I, Part 4, § 53, p. 352.
  5. "Think Again: A foreign policy from ‘cloud cuckoo land’". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  6. "Nelson Mandela: From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  7. "Cameron: we got it wrong on apartheid". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  8. "Frost over the world - Drugs debate - 27 Mar 09 - Part 4". You Tube. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  9. "Gingrich mocks Obama's algae energy comments as 'Cloud Cuckoo Land'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  10. "Wolkenkuckucksheim". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  11. "Pakistani Panel Rejects Fraud Accusations in 2013 Prime Minister Vote". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  12. "Pakistan Commission Finds No Manipulation in 2013 Election". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-07-23.

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