Our new theme of "Eponyms" begins with one more shadow-word. An early, 1801 quote used this shadow-word along with its older synonym.
from Etienne de Silhouette, the French minister of Finance in 1759, who, to replenish the treasury, exhausted by the costly wars with Britain and Prussia, … inaugurated the strictest economy. His extreme parsimony made him a choice subject for caricature; so that any mode or fashion that was plain and cheap – surtouts without plaits, trousers without pockets – was styled à la Silhouette; and profiles made by tracing the shadow projected by the light of a candle on a sheet of white paper being then much in vogue, having continued to bear the name. [Above definition and history is from Chambers' Encyclopaedia.] Within eight months, Silhouette was driven from office after he proposed harsh measures to fall on the nobles.
Do you remember the old song Silhouettes, by Frank C. Slay Jr. and Bob Crewe?
All the shades were pulled and drawn, way down tight;
From within, the dim light cast two silhouettes on the shade.
. . .Oh what a lovely couple they made.
Put his arms around your waist, held you tight;
Kisses I could almost taste, in the night;
Wondered why I'm not the guy whose silhouette’s on the shade.
. . .I couldn't hide the tears in my eyes.
Lost control and rang your bell. I was sore.
“Let me in or else I'll beat down your door.”
When two strangers who had been two silhouettes on the shade
. . .Said to my shock, "You're on the wrong block.”
Rushed out to your house with wings on my feet;
Loved you like I'd never loved you my sweet;
Vowed that you and I would be two silhouettes on the shade;
. . .All of our days, two silhouettes on the shade.
Barbie doll – a blandly attractive but vacuous young woman
[from the doll]
– Sherry Argov, Why Men Love Bitches
Luckily, the caller wasn't her ex-husband or his sickening Barbie doll of a wife calling about the kids.
– Lisa Jackson, Left To Die
What is the name of that line of people waiting to buy those cute little dolls ???
Why that, Sir, is the Barbie Queue.
It seems to me that today’s word is most often used in the figurative sense noted below. Nonetheless, I’ve found no dictionary that gives anything but the literal meaning.
klieg light – 1. a powerful carbon-arc lamp, used especially in making movies (It produces an intense light, and made it possible to shoot movies indoors.)
2. figuratively: intense and unpleasant scrutiny
[after brothers John H. Kliegl and Anton Tiberius Kliegl, German-born American lighting experts]
– News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), Feb. 24, 2008 (ellipses omitted)
[Senator Joe] Biden's megawatt grin illuminates the room like a klieg light, and soon his lyrical rhetoric has the crowd in a reverential hush.
– CBS News, Dec. 20, 2007
I have never heard of it in a figurative sense. It seems to be the equivalent of the expression we would use, "in the limelight".
Limelight is an older technology, using an oxyhydrogen flame to raise a cylinder of lime (calcium oxide) to incandescence.
ritzy – elegant; fancy
[after the Ritz hotels, established by César Ritz (1850–1918), Swiss hotelier]
Note: I’d say the word implies a smug superiority, “looking down one’s nose”. The dictionaries do not mention this.
– James Patterson, See How They Run
Putting on the Ritz is one way of describing it. I tried to link to Peter Boyle's rendition in Young Frankenstein but was unsuccessful.
Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
As long as we're talking about the world of the ritzy …
Raffles – a ‘gentleman thief’; an educated or upper-class man who engages in discreet larceny [Wordcrafter note: perhaps it also means one who thus steals from the upper class?]
[Arthur J. Raffles, fictitious hero of English writer E. W. Hornung (1866-1921). I picture the sort of fellow who, in a movie, might be played by Gary Grant]
– Daily Record (Glasgow), March 12, 1997
. . .Dressed in a crumpled suit, the softly spoken man blended perfectly with other academics in a hushed reading room of the Welsh national library. The one thing that set him apart went unnoticed – a scalpel. It was only after the professorial figure returned the four ancient atlases he had been quietly perusing, politely thanking librarians for their help before leaving, that the true nature of his visit emerged. Under the pretence of studying the work of early map makers, the visitor had squirreled their works away, probably into secret pockets hidden in his clothing.
. . .The theft was one of a series of clandestine raids on libraries across Britain and Europe which is costing millions of pounds a year. Behind the phenomenon are a handful of skilled international thieves stealing up to £2m worth of maps a year. These Raffles of cartography are feeding a hunger among collectors, channelling maps from specialist and university libraries through London onto the open market.
– The Independent, May 18, 2002 (ellipses omitted)
The quotes for today’s word give the flavor more than the definition can, and they show why this word is more useful than you might imagine from the definition alone.
Zelig – a chameleon-like person always manages to be present everywhere
[after Leonard Zelig, hero of the 1983 movie Zelig by Woody Allen]
– Bennett Singer in Austin (Texas) Chronicle, Nov. 14, 2003
As the Kennedy administration took office in 1961, [Duane] Andreas became the Zelig of Washington – present for great events, rubbing elbows with the powerful, yet unknown to the public.
– Kurt Eichenwald, The Informant: A True Story
It seems to me that Eichenwald uses the word correctly, and Singer does not.
What does it mean to be "like the Zelig"?
Does anyone happen to know whether Hornung was inspired by the Raffles Hotel in Singapore (named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore).
Many men of letters have stayed at The Raffles, that's for sure.
Or by Ronald Colman, or even John Barrymore.
I doubt it. Hornung, as a Victorian gentleman, must have been aware of the part played by Sir Stamford in the founding of Singapore, and may possibly have named his character after him, but I'd say it's unlikely that he'd name him after the hotel.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
BTW, did anyone else notice he got the old actor's name wrong? Mr Grant has one of the two spellings of /kair-ee/ supposedly reserved for males, his based on the the Celtic cairn. The other ("Kerry", dark-haired) has recently been usurped, though, and the actor's "Cary" seems to be the sole hold-out, if only due to strict lack of use for modern children.
My apologies, KB. Thank you for your eagle eye.
I had a word in mind for today, but today’s newspaper changed my choice, because a single sentence there presents us with three eponyms! We have the non-word the writer used by mistake, the fancy word he intended, and the name of that sort of error.
Recall the Greek fable of Icarus, who flew and fled from an island prison on wings made of wax, but flew too close to the sun, and fell to a watery death when his wings melted.
– Wall Street Journal, August 26, 2008; Page A20, col. 1-2
[Not a valid “word”, according to OED. ‘Icarian’ was probably intended. But it wouldn’t quite fit, because the author does not mean to imply ‘dangerously’ high or ‘ruinously’ high.]
Icarian – soaring too high for safety; applying to ambitious or presumptuous acts which end in failure or ruin (a previous word-of-the-day)
malaprop – ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound. [In my judgment, it must be a misuse in a failed attempt to be erudite]
[Mrs. Malaprop, character in a who was prone to such errors (i.e. "contagious countries" for "contiguous countries"). a previous word-of-the-day; see here and qualifications following it.]