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klieg light (kleeg lyt) noun
1. A carbon-arc lamp for producing light, used in moviemaking.
2. The center of public attention.
[After brothers and inventors, lighting experts John H. Kliegl (1869-1959) and Anton T. Kliegl (1872-1927). The last letter "L" of their name apparently became fused with the word "light" in the term "klieg light".]
Klieg light is a modern synonym of the word limelight. In earlier times, white lime was used to produce intense light for illuminating the theater stage. Metaphorically, people -- famous and infamous -- continue to be in the limelight or klieg light, as popular media trains its spotlight on them.
"And on this night, Billups and Hamilton were twin klieg lights at a shopping mall opening, and Kobe was a 25-watt bulb." Mitch Albom; Pistons Proving Team Might be Better Than Hall of Famers; Kansas City Star (Missouri); Jun 11, 2004.
"With flashing eyes, klieg-light smile, and raven hair that increased in sheer mass over the years, (Ann) Miller arrived in Hollywood as a dancing gamine -- she was once clocked at 500 taps a minute, and a studio insurance policy covered her literally million-dollar legs ..." Ty Burr; With Endless Energy And Optimism, Ann Miller Was a Showbiz Survivor; Boston Globe; Jan 24, 2004.
Self-improvement author Dale Carnegie once said, "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." No wonder we put it to use any chance we get: from naming a business (Wal-Mart) to naming a child (Ron Jr.). For the same reason, we insist that a hospital auditorium or a park bench carry our name in return for our money.
We name inventions, diseases, countries, products, plants, mountains, planets and more after people's names. We even coin words after them. Such words are called eponyms, from epi- (upon) + -onym (name).
This week's AWAD examines five words named after people, from either fact or fiction.
If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon. -George D. Aiken, US senator (1892-1984)
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