What is a klieg light?

This reference in Barry Saunders’ column today (“Truth told in words, deaths”): “Gen. David Petraeus betrayed no hint of irony as he sat in front of television kleig lights this week ….”

I first wondered about the spelling, which should be klieg. The name comes from the inventors, the Kliegl brothers. Then I wondered whether the term is familiar to readers and whether television broadcasts still use klieg lights.

A klieg light is a very bright lamp used in filmmaking and in studios. It is also a synonym for the metaphorical limelight. I don’t know what kind of lights were actually in the hearing room where Petraeus has testified this week, but the term “klieg lights” certainly works as a metaphor to describe the white-hot spotlight that has been on the general’s testimony.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.