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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?

  • 1
    This question is essentially about writing advice. Voting to close. – Kris Jan 6 '15 at 6:29
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    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 '15 at 6:34
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    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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 6 '15 at 11:31
  • Eidolon perhaps? – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 6 '15 at 16:52
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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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    tchrist – you're a stackexchange treasure! Thanks to you and those above who defended the question. – ipso Jan 6 '15 at 20:22
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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.*

  • You might consider "diva" also. – ermanen Jan 6 '15 at 14:20
  • "Diva" is almost always pejorative these days. – Marthaª Jan 6 '15 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 '15 at 16:01
  • @Marthaª: I think it is safe to call her "cinema diva" or "movie diva" to be more specific. – ermanen Jan 6 '15 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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 8 '15 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

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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.

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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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