Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ELL vocabulary - cloud


definition: a mass of water vapor one sees in the sky

- Fancy definition from the OED:

"A visible mass of condensed watery vapour floating in the air at some considerable height above the general surface of the ground."
Here is a picture of a cloud:

(In the picture, the cloud is the white-and-gray thing, not the blue thing.  The blue thing is the sky.)

We see clouds during most every day.  (When the sky is totally blue, with no clouds at all, it is called a cloudless sky.)  Clouds take different shapes and forms.  Sometimes they're spread out and low, so that we can see none of the blue sky: those are stratus clouds.  Sometimes they're piled up and puffy: those are cumulus or "fair weather" clouds.  Usually you see cumulus clouds when the weather is warm and sunny.  They float in the blue sky.  

There are huge, tall rain clouds that produce thunderstorms with thunder, lightning, and sometimes hail.  Those are cumulonimbus clouds:

A cumulonimbus cloud, or a "thunderhead".
When I was young I had a chart of many different types of clouds and of the weather that came with them.  I would take this chart outside, look up at the sky, and try to name the clouds I saw.  I don't think I was very often right.

Now there is an idiom in English called "the cloud".  "The cloud" refers to a place where information is stored when it is not stored on your smartphone or on your computer--it's when information is stored somewhere you can only get to via the Internet.  

If you wanted to save something computerized--say, a poem or an image or a song--you used to have to save it "to your computer," "to your disk," or, more recently, "to your device."  How many of you have photographs saved to your device?  Or music saved to your device?  Eventually, the device runs out of storage space or memory.  In recent years, businesses have appeared that provide storage space or memory where you can store your computerized information.  That storage space is now called the cloud:

      • Dropbox
      • Google Drive
      • Mega
      • OneDrive
      • iCloud
      • Box

These are all cloud storage providers where, if you pay money, you can save your stuff to an account in your name.  The more you want to save, the more storage space you buy, and the more money you pay.

Why does English call this online data storage the cloud?  Partially, because the storage space is without form, like an in-the-sky cloud; your data is stored "somewhere out there," rather than in a specific file location, so we think of the space as being like a cloud.  Maybe this image will help:

An image that shows the idea of the cloud.
If you look at the image, you can see that it is shaped like a cumulus cloud but that it is made of a group of pictures of information we save, like music (the microphone), writing (the fountain pen), passwords (the key), and so on.

There was an article in the New York Times today about a company called CloudFlare that provides security to websites.  Notice that the CloudFlare company's name includes the word cloud, because the company protects websites--sources of information that exist in the cloud.  It was my reading about the CloudFlare company today that gave me the idea to write about clouds.

Now to you:  What are some words that you think of when you think about a cloud?  I'll start you off with some words, then you think of three to seven more.  

Clouds are:
  • formless
  • floating
  • white
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________
  • __________

Keep going, if you can!

--The English Avocado

#English language
#lesson plans

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