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A Hint of Limelight

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Hey, Camp Folks! 

Have you ever wondered why we say certain phrases and sayings that are really built into our everyday speech. Folks find themselves saying phrases like The Grass is Always Greener and Put a Sock in it. Often enough, people don’t even realize they’re using one of these sayings or adages—they’re just such a part of our language. 

Today we’re examining the origin of the phrase ‘In the Limelight’. It’s used in our modern day to mean at the center of attention. But why limelight? It’s not like the light is a bright shade of green. Limelight was a common means of stage lighting for a long time and it was called such because the light was actually made using lime—the stone, not the fruit. 

It was a chemist and philosopher named Goldsworthy Gurney who discovered the effects of heated limestone back in the 1820s. With a flame from burning oxygen and hydrogen, Goldsworthy introduced just a small piece of limestone and found that it emitted an intense white light that could be seen for miles. 

This means of lighting showed great potential for settings like theaters and other large buildings. A man named Thomas Drummond took note of this chemical reaction and applied it to for illuminating the stage. It was first employed in London and lit up the Covent Garden in 1837. Since then, limelight became widely used throughout the 19th Century. 

What with its use being so commonly found in theaters, limelight became heavily associated with acting. Actors of lead roles were said to be in the limelight. Nowadays, limelight isn’t really used anymore. But the turn of phrase has taken on a figurative meaning off the stage to refer to attention-loving people. 

How about you? Do you tend to ham it up when the eyes are on you? If so, you might love being in the limelight! As always, thanks for reading and happy camping! 


- John

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