1

It's a specific word or small phrase that I can't remember, and it's killing me.

It was probably an Oscars ceremony, and someone boldly introduced her as a “xxxx”. It was the highest of compliments, like calling someone "impeccable", but was such a great big compliment that it makes one blush even if not the one being given the accolade.

NOT:

  • living legend
  • crown jewel
  • cherished rare commodity
  • ... monolith of greatness

That's all I've got. Any ideas?

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  • 1
    This question is essentially about writing advice. Voting to close.
    – Kris
    Jan 6, 2015 at 6:29
  • 10
    The question is about helping someone and finding a specific word/phrase. There are a lot of details to begin with also.
    – ermanen
    Jan 6, 2015 at 6:34
  • 10
    How in the world is this question—looking for a specific word/phrase with a specific meaning, which the poster cannot recall—either POB, too broad, or writing advice? The question gives a precise context, as well as an exact meaning of the word/phrase in question and exactly how it was used in context. There is nothing, by any stretch of the imagination, about this question that is off-topic. Jan 6, 2015 at 11:31
  • Eidolon perhaps? Jan 6, 2015 at 16:52
  • Go and watch that Oscar moment again. Dec 18, 2022 at 17:10

5 Answers 5

12

The term you are looking for here is probably national treasure, as Meryl Streep has often been called that over the past fifteen years:

  • 2000, Steven Spielberg: Interviews: I think Meryl can do anything. She’s become a national treasure. So have Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and some other people like that I’d like to work with.

  • 2009, Woman Around Town: “It’s NOT Complicated—Meryl Streep Is a National Treasure” (article title)

  • 2009, Celebitchy: Meryl Streep is a national treasure. She’s humble, she’s honest, she’s cool and she’s funny. With her Best Actress Oscar nomination for Doubt, Streep has become the most-nominated actor in history, her fifteen nominations beating out Katherine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson’s twelve nominations each.

  • 2012, Uproxx: Meryl Streep might not be the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, but she is a national treasure, and seeing as how today is her 63rd birthday, it seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back on how bangin she looked in high school.

  • 2013, Cinema Blend: Many watching were positively outraged when Silver Linings Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence accepted her award by crowing “I beat Meryl!” Without the ever-gracious national treasure there to laugh along, Lawrence earned instant “how dare she” scolding on the Internet. The message was clear: you don’t mess with Meryl.

  • 2014, Cosmopolitan: Meryl Streep is a national treasure and when she talks, people listen.

  • 2014, Baltimore Magazine: While first stating for the record that Meryl Streep is our Greatest Living Actress and a National Treasure™, I also have to say, I wasn’t wild about her boozy, caustic, furniture-chomping performance in August Osage County.

  • 2014, Hollywood Take: Meryl Streep is a national treasure and Jennifer Lawrence is well on her way to becoming one too!

  • 2014, Flavorwire: Meryl Streep is the ultimate un-hateable celebrity. She’s 64 years old, she has remained a steady presence in Hollywood for over four decades. She’s a national treasure.

  • 2014, Vanity Fair: In the late 1980s and early 1990s, less than a decade into stardom, Meryl Streep found herself at a career crossroads, fighting off a backlash. Commanding an average salary of $4 million per picture—nowhere near what comparable male stars earned, but a lot for a woman—she was considered by some to be overpaid. “National treasure or no,” as Premiere put it, “Streep still cannot open a film.”

  • 2014, The Daily Beast: It is still a distinctive Streep-ian tour de force. It perhaps falls into the same bracket as The Iron Lady, for which Streep won her last, third Oscar playing Margaret Thatcher: amazing performance in a not-so-great film. Her scenery-chomping performance in August is in sharp contrast to that of another Oscar-nominated national treasure—the British Judi Dench—for her role as a mother searching for her lost son in Philomena. Both women are indomitable, but Dench’s Philomena is self-contained, quiet, determined not to cause a fuss, while Violet’s default setting is fuss-with-added-hellfire.

  • 2014, Refinery29: Meryl Streep is one of our primo national treasures. And, on Monday, President Obama made it official when he awarded the world’s greatest living actress with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The three-time Oscar winner is used to having hardware bestowed upon her, but Monday’s honor was next level. Along with the Congressional Gold Medal, it’s the highest civilian award in the country.

This accolade, which one would more expect of national parks and historic buildings, is rarely bestowed on media figures, and those on whom it is stand out noticeably from the others.

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  • 2
    tchrist – you're a stackexchange treasure! Thanks to you and those above who defended the question.
    – ipso
    Jan 6, 2015 at 20:22
  • While there is plenty of evidence here that the phrase is actually used for her, it is puzzling what exactly the role of the word national in that phrase is. Is the implication supposed to be that her achievements are not appreciated by people outside the U.S., or perhaps that her talents are better suited to movies set in the U.S. than those set elsewhere? None of that seems plausible.
    – jsw29
    Jul 1, 2021 at 16:51
  • @jsw29 It means that her nation treasures her.
    – tchrist
    Jul 1, 2021 at 20:53
  • @tchrist, OK, but that seems to be something quite different from what was in the question. Living legend and other formulations that appear in the question are all compatible with her being treasured/admired/respected by the cinemagoers everywhere; none of these terms implies anything that would be specific to a particular nation. I can see, though, why national treasure may be an apt term to use in the context of her being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is a nation-specific honour.
    – jsw29
    Jul 1, 2021 at 22:56
  • Why did everyone call her the same thing through the years? Why didn't anybody try a different phrase as a compliment? Dec 19, 2022 at 14:36
2

You might be looking for nonpareil. You can see the usage of a/an x nonpareil where x is the profession of the person.

Use nonpareil to describe someone or something that is beyond compare, an absolute model of perfection of a particular thing. Jane Austen was a writer nonpareil, and James Bond a spy nonpareil.

http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/nonpareil

It is from middle French nonpareil, from non- "not" + pareil "equal.*

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  • You might consider "diva" also.
    – ermanen
    Jan 6, 2015 at 14:20
  • "Diva" is almost always pejorative these days.
    – Marthaª
    Jan 6, 2015 at 15:55
  • @Marthaª: I'm not sure about "almost always" but yes it can be pejorative in slang. I hesitated to give as an answer but big stars can be called a diva.
    – ermanen
    Jan 6, 2015 at 16:01
  • @Marthaª: I think it is safe to call her "cinema diva" or "movie diva" to be more specific.
    – ermanen
    Jan 6, 2015 at 16:08
  • You’d be (relatively) safe in saying, “Meryl Streep truly is one of the great classical Hollywood divas”; but “Meryl Streep is a diva” would require a lot of context and body language to be seen as a positive statement. Jan 8, 2015 at 22:43
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The Latin phrase "Ne plus ultra" according to Wiktionary means:

1.the highest, ultimate point of achievement which can be reached; perfection The slight that can be conveyed in a glance, in a gracious smile, in a wave of the hand, is often the ne plus ultra of art. [Julia Kavanagh] 2.the highest possible state, degree, or condition of quality; nothing better.

Not perhaps a standard Hollywood phrase

2

One of the most common compliments directed at Meryl Streep is the hyperbolic phrase
the greatest living actress/actor, Google reports 24,800 instances in connection with Meryl Streep. The term actor is perceived to be more neutral and respectful and is no longer confined to men. In today's politically correct society, the term "actor" is considered gender-neutral.

Oxford English Dictionary (3 ed.). November 2010. Although actor refers to a person who acts regardless of gender, where this term "is increasingly preferred", actress remains in general use; actor is increasingly preferred for performers of both sexes as a gender-neutral term.

And in the article dedicated to the actress, it gives the following accolade

she is widely regarded as one of the greatest film actors of all time

A one word expression that is often heard in these circumstances is superstar, with its connotations of greatness and immense fame. Megastar is another alternative.

UPDATE 2023

Talking of Meryl Streep; her co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Jonah Hill referred to her as the G.O.A.T in 2021 when they were promoting their movie Don't Look Up.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Jennifer tells the following anecdote.

Jennifer Lawrence: We just offhandedly call Meryl the G.O.A.T. We were doing a photoshoot and Meryl said, ‘That’s right, just tell the old goat where to go.’ (Lawrence) And I was like, ‘Meryl, you know that G.O.A.T means “greatest of all time, right?”’ And she was like “Oh!” and I said “We haven’t just been calling you goat!”

Meanwhile, Jonah was a guest at Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show

Jonah Hill: And she’s the best actor. In fact, […] so we’ve been doing press for this movie […] I keep saying, ‘Oh, and, you know, getting to work with Meryl, she’s the GOAT.’ She’s the GOAT, right? Which, if you know, stands for the ‘Greatest of All Time’, right?’ That’s, like, an acronym that you use for, like, Michael Jordan or Jay-Z or whoever […] And Meryl to me is the GOAT. She’s the greatest of all time. So the whole week, I’m saying, “You know, working with Meryl is the best. She’s the GOAT. She’s the GOAT.” And then today, we’re doing a press conference and she’s like, “You know, and Jonah is so comfortable with me, he’s been calling me a goat all week.” And Jennifer Lawrence’s explaining her. ‘Cause she was telling Jennifer about this […] And she’s cool, she wasn’t even offended by it.

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Google claims to have indexed about 2,850 instances of...

"Meryl Streep is an icon"

icon - a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration

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