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    Re: Etymology of "loom"?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Sep 12, 18:57 -0700

    So I went to Google Books and searched on the phrase "loom of the light" (I 
    tried some alternatives, but this seems to give the best results). The 
    meaning that you two, George and John, are describing apparently originates 
    at the end of the 19th century when the first electric lights appeared 
    --which makes good sense.
    The Nautical Magazine, 1879:
    "In the case of two lights, one electric the other oil, both having equal 
    elevations, the rays of both will reach the horizon in clear weather with 
    nearly equal effect, and the mariner at the extreme range will sight one 
    light as soon as the other. But the electric beam possesses one important 
    advantage whereby its range is practically extended beyond the horizon. The 
    intensity of the beam is so great, and has so much illuminating power, that a 
    sort of glare in the atmosphere is produced, whereby the mariner is enabled 
    to make the "loom" of the light for some time before the light itself is 
    visible above the horizon. This property, which the most powerful oil light 
    does not possess to anything like the same extent, undoubtedly tells greatly 
    in favour of the electric light, and makes it especially suitable for those 
    prominent headlands which serve as landfalls for the navigator coming from 
    over sea."
    Incidentally, the quote marks around the word 'loom' above are in the 
    original. That suggests rather strongly that this was a new usage at this 
    time. Things looming, either beyond the horizon or above it, as in the 
    refraction phenomenon previously described, were nothing new of course. But 
    this specific application to a glow from a light beyond the horizon appears 
    to be a new usage, a new meaning for the word.
    And here's one from The Electrical Engineer, 1890:
    "The system of electric fog-lights introduced on the Long Island steamers 
    "Massachusetts" and "Rhode Island" appear to have proved very successful, and 
    have inaugurated a new method of employing the electric light for fog 
    signalling. The arc light on the steamboats is pointed vertically upwards, 
    and the loom of the light rises to an incredible distance, being plainly 
    visible at many times the distance at which a plain arc lamp could be seen. 
    Pilots have reported seeing the light at 18 miles distance. The column of 
    light resembles a stream of water thrown from a hose. Hitherto vessels have 
    been fitted with search-lights to throw beams horizontally so as to 
    distinguish approaching danger, but pilots say such lights are useless in 
    thick weather, as no light can penetrate a thick fog horizontally. They are 
    worse than useless and blind the men in the pilothouse. On the other hand, a 
    light projected vertically in the direction in which the fog is least thick, 
    will throw a loom fixing the position of the vessel."
    It seems a bit of a shame that this expression "throw a loom" didn't catch on...
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