On Cloud 9

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On Cloud 9 : Phrases


A feeling of euphoric exaltation.


Canadian Senate members, once appointed to their patronage positions, feel as though they're
on cloud 9.


Clouds are divided by the U.S. Weather Bureau into classes, and each class is divided into nine types.
Cloud nine is the cumulo-nimbus cloud that you often see building up in the sky in a hot summer afternoon. It may reach 30,000 to 40,000 feet, so if one is up on cloud nine one is high indeed.

Alternative: The common belief that this came from the US Weather Bureau classification of the 1950's is not true. The first effort at properly classifying clouds was at the beginning of the 19th century by Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, who classified them in simple terms along Linnaean lines. Then a Quaker businessman, Luke Howard (1772-1864), classified clouds into types such as stratus, cumulus and cirrus. Howard was a near contemporary of the famed artist John Constable. Howard gave several lectures on his system and it is likely that Constable, who was renowned for his landscapes, attended some. Howard's system was expanded and developed into the International Cloud Atlas.

An abridged version of the Atlas came out in 1896 and classified ten types of cloud. Number 9 was the white, fluffy, comfy-looking cumulo-nimbus. Hence to be
on cloud nine came to symbolise floating free on a downy, white cushion, presumably without a care in the world. Thanks to Phil Sawyer.
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