To steal your thunder…

When someone steals your thunder they are taking credit for something that you should properly be credited for. The phrase was in regular use by the 19th century, especially by jealous politicians claiming their brilliant and original ideas had been stolen by another. The expression itself, however, was coined in the early 1700s by the playwright and critic John Dennis, who discovered the sound of thunder could be reproduced to great effect by pummelling large tin sheets backstage at the Drury Lane Theatre in London. At a time when sound effects were virtually unheard of, his idea considerably added to the drama and drew much attention. His play, on the other hand, was a flop and was replaced by Macbeth the following week. Shortly afterwards the embittered Dennis saw the performance of Macbeth and was furious to hear his thunder being reproduced without his permission. Writing a review the following day, he raged, ‘See what rascals they are. They will not run my play and yet they steal my thunder.’

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