Way With Words: Steal Your Thunder
Sometimes a phrase has a clear and obvious origin, sometimes it has a strange one and sometimes the origin seems strange at first, but once thought about, does actually make sense.
That is the case for ‘stealing one’s thunder.’
John Dennis, a literary critic and nowhere-near-Shakespeare-quality playwright in the 16th century, is noted for writing a rather unsuccessful play that featured a nifty thunder sound effect maker.
According to phrases.org.uk, the device was rumored to be, “a refinement of the mustard bowl referred to by Pope, in which metal balls were rolled around in a wooden bowl.”
While the play bombed, his thunder sounding device was immediately used in a production of “Macbeth,” infuriating Dennis.
“His response was recorded by the literary scholar Joseph Spence (1699–1768) and later quoted in W. S. Walsh's Literary Curiosities, 1893: ‘Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder,'” states the website.
The phrases site also suggested that the alternate words of "That is my thunder, by God; the villains will play my thunder but not my play!" were actual account, but either way this experience was the basis of the phrase joining the English language.
‘Stealing one’s thunder’ remains a popular method of describing how the jerk down the hall who took credit for someone else’s work.
Centuries later, the phrase holds its place as the adequate summation of the feelings one gets when their brilliant idea is purloined.
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