Thursday, July 10, 2014

How the phrase 'in the limelight' came into existence

We often talk about which celebrity is in the limelight and who is not. I have often wondered what 'lime' has to do with 'light'. A lot! According to Bill Bryson's book, At Home, in the early 1820s, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, an engineer and inventor in Britain, heated a ball of lime (calcium) no bigger than a marble using a flame from a rich blend of oxygen and alcohol. It glowed with an intense white light, which could be seen sixty miles away. The device, which was called Drummond light (named after Gurney's fellow engineer Thomas Drummond who popularised it), was successfully put to use in lighthouses. It was also taken up by theatres because the light was perfect and steady, and more importantly, it could be focussed into a beam and cast onto selected performers. Thus, they were 'in the limelight'.

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