Bob and Alice have a problem. Bob has a brilliant solution and tells Alice. Alice reacts as if she had thought of it herself.
Bonus points if Alice first criticizes the idea before stealing it. Further bonus points if Bob and Alice are members of a Quirky Miniboss Squad and Alice returns ownership of the idea to Bob after the plan goes Wahoonie-shaped.
A common variation has Alice acting as though she has not heard Bob's suggestion at all, and then repeating it word-for-word as though she had just thought of it. If she honestly hadn't heard the plan before independently suggesting it, it's a case of Strange Minds Think Alike.
Another variation is to subtly suggest an idea in a way that lets someone else take credit (and perhaps honestly believe that they thought of it themselves), making them more likely to accept and act on the proposal than if you directly advocated it yourself.
People prone to this are also prone to Never My Fault.
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Used in a Dominoes' commercial. Donald Trump receives a cheeseburger pizza from a delivery guy...and then acts like the cheeseburger pizza—its invention, not ordering it, which was probably his secretary's idea from his reaction—was his idea. And his yes-men compliment him on it. The delivery guy is the Only Sane Man, of course.
A commercial for FedEx featured a boss repeating an underling's suggestion verbatim but making a hand signal while saying it, which is apparently enough to make it uniquely the boss's idea.
In one MAD "The Lighter Side" feature, one editor at a magazine (apparently Mad itself) pitches an idea his coworker thought up while noting that he has reservations about it. The head editor approves it, and the editor who mentioned it claimed that he had supported it all along.
Judge: You sure are very bright, deducing something like that, Miss Trixie. Trixie: Naturally! Phoenix:*Inner Monologue* Argh! That was my deduction!
Films — Animated
From "The Reign of Mega Mind," (a video comic extra):
Minion: Sir! You- You listened to me? Megamind: No... Something you said just happened to make me take action on a plan of my own. Which bore a similarity to your suggestion, but was entirely of my own making.
Inverted in Brother Bear 2 when Rutt explains to the female moose that he was a "hoof man". This prompts Tuke, who had been ditched by said females, to say this:
Tuke: "Hoof man"? Why didn't I think of that?
In the Disney version of The Prince and the Pauper, this is one of the two things the prince tells Mickey to say in order to pass himself off as a ruler. (The other one is "Guards, seize him!")
In Inception the plan centers on invoking this in the mind of the mark. While in the mark's dream you present him with an idea that he will suborn as his own upon waking up. The key is to make the mark truly believe that he came up with the idea on his own. This is much harder than simply stealing an idea.
Used multiple times in the Danny Kaye film version of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty with Mitty's boss claiming all of Mitty's ideas as something he'd already been planning.
Used dramatically in Animal Farm. Napoleon criticizes Snowball's plan to build a windmill, then claims he thought of it himself after he runs Snowball off the farm.
Used intentionally by Ehren ex Cursori in the sixth Codex Alera book First Lord's Fury.He manages to convince the current (usurping) First Lord to expose himself to a dangerous (and eventually fatal) situation and think it was his own idea.
Mentioned in Lady Knight. A very green female knight running a refugee camp, Keladry of Mindelan can't always just give orders and have all of them obeyed immediately, and one of the things she figures out is how to phrase suggestions in ways that let her people think they came up with ideas. It might not be satisfying, but Kel's always been less interested in ego-stroking, more in results.
The Russian Space Navy admiral in Harry Harrison's Starworld is known by his subordinates for his little tolerance to criticism (and love of vodka while on duty). As such, his Number Two tries to find ways to contradict his admiral in such a way as to present it as the admiral's own idea, usually with phrases like "Haven't you told me once..." The one time the subordinate openly criticizes the guy, he gets slapped for his efforts.
Jim from the US version of The Office uses this trope sarcastically a couple of times, usually to point out the ridiculousness of said plan. For instance, during a meeting in the episode "Did I Stutter", Andy proposes to add a bit more zing and pep to their answering machine message in order to energize the company. Jim responds by saying they should add a newer message with even more zing and pep.
Colonel Klink does this all the time on Hogan's Heroes. Colonel Hogan regularly takes advantage of it to manipulate him, often complimenting Klink on the brilliance of his plan.
Friends, Rachel is looking for a roommate and Phoebe's roommate just moved out. "Well maybe I could be your roommate, Pheebs." "...Hey, maybe you could be my roommate!"
In Get Smart, Agent 99 will often suggest a plan, after which, Max will re-quote the plan in the same exact words as if it were his own idea... Agent 99 will usually pause for a bit before deciding to humor Max.
Black Adder Edmund often does this to Baldrick throughout the series, most notably in the first season where Baldrick is portrayed as smarter than Edmund.
An example occurs in the very first episode. Edmund, having become a Prince of the Realm after the death of the previous king, decides to adopt a new nickname. His initial idea is The Black Vegetable. Baldrick suggests that something like The Black Adder might be more awe-inspiring. Edmund then proclaims that he has an even better idea: The Black Adder.
In the Are You Being Served? episode "The Think Tank", the Ladies and Gents' staff are trying to think up ways of boosting sales in the department. Captain Peacock suggests an in-store fashion show, which Mr. Rumbold summarily rejects and then appropriates as his own idea.
A running gag in the Mash episode "Rally Round the Flagg, Boys".
In the Doctor Who serial The Stones of Blood, Romana tells the Doctor to get on with finding the next segment of Key to Time. The Doctor starts to leave, turns back, and tells her that he's decided to go find the location of the next segment of the Key to Time.
The Fourth Doctor seems particularly prone to this, as he does the same to Leela in The Invisible Enemy. She spends the episode telling him to blow up the enemy, only to become indignant when he congratulates himself on his brilliant idea of...blowing up the enemy.
In the Swedish children's show Dr Mugg, this is a running gag. Captain Filling, the hero, will ask out loud what he can do to stop Dr. Mugg's latest plan. His love interest will propose an idea. He will hijack the idea. She, fawning all over him, will ask how he comes up with such brilliant plans. He will announce "Simple! I just use my brain!" and point to some completely random part of his body.
Subverted in The IT Crowd when Moss has a good idea but decides its stupid until Jen repeats it and he congratulates her on having a good idea, while Jen confusedly thanks him.
Invoked in an episode of Blackadder the Third. The Prince refuses to sponsor Dr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary and insults the man on the way out, but Edmund promises Johnson he can change the Prince's mind in a few minutes. He does so by telling the Prince that pretending to hate the Dictionary while actually loving it was a brilliant joke, which causes him to instantly adopt this attitude (the entire episode is predicated on the Prince's desire to convince people that he was witty and sophisticated).
Power Rangers Zeo: This is what happens when Finster suggests Lord Zedd used the Power Rangers against Gasket. "That's a brilliant idea, Finster! I'm glad I thought of it!" (Yes, Zedd actually says it word-for-word.) Finster doesn't mind in the least that Zedd takes the credit, because his suggestion is being acted upon.
Ricky Fitness: Commander! What if we shrink ourselves and fight them from inside Jimmy? MC Bat Commander: Maybe, (discards crowbar) or even better! We can shrink ourselves and fight them from inside Jimmy!
Horatio Hornblower, "The Even Chance": Horatio has his first midshipman command. He's supposed to board a taken French ship from a food convoy and bring her to England. He orders his men to put the Frenchmen in irons and assigns them some work. Matthews, his most experienced sailor and The Reliable One, suggests they need more hands and that they should make the Frenchies do it. Horatio agrees and says it was of course his intention. Now, of course it was. However, he smiles as he says it which indicates he gives Matthews some credit.
Another good natured example occurs in Babylon 5. Commander Ivanova appropriates an extemely obvious solution to a problem that she missed and Dr. Franklin suggested (they need a strong power source, and the planet they orbit houses an immensly powerful machine controlled by an ally), but she is clearly embarrassed that she could miss it, and Franklin is playing along to make her feel better.
Dilbert and his co-workers have taken advantage of the Pointy-Haired Boss' habit of doing this several times — suggest something ridiculous, wait for him to steal the idea, try not to laugh in PHB's face.
In one strip, Dogbert was helping a guy who wanted a career belittling other people. Dogbert suggested that he pursue a career in management and decided to give him the management aptitude test. The guy instantly declared, "Hey, I have an idea! I should pursue a career in management!" Dogbert, of course, replied, "Congratulations, you just passed the management aptitude test."
A months-long plotline in For Better or for Worse revolved around Elly trying to save the local theatre. Eventually, she gave up and took her young son Michael along to pack everything away. Michael, amazed by all the costumes, proclaims they could throw the biggest Halloween party ever. Elly immediately hijacks the idea and helps organize a big celebration, inviting the local officials for a big shin-dig... only for adults, no children allowed. When one of those officials then declares the theatre a local icon and saves it, he proclaims "I've been lobbying for this for months!", leaving Elly gobsmacked and shocked that somebody would take credit forheridea.
In an early Thimble Theatre comic, Castor Oyle (Olive Oyle's father) is annoyed that the political cartoonist for the newspaper he owns hasn't actually thought up a cartoon in several days. Castor suggests a cartoon showing the mayor as a vulture (a scandal was brewing during this) carrying off sheep, representations of the townspeople. The cartoonist derides this as stupid, before coming up with a comic portraying the mayor as a vulture carrying off sheep. Castor is not amused.
The very last multi-day Calvin and Hobbes storyline involves Galaxoid and Nebular, two aliens who Calvin sold the Earth to, complaining about the cold Earth winter and demanding Calvin do something about it. Hobbes removes their Christmas stockings from the fireplace and gives them to the aliens, to which Calvin vehemently protests, since now "Santa can't fill 'em with loot!" Hobbes reassures him that Santa knows they did a nice thing and will work something out, to which Calvin replies, "Hey yeah, I did something good!"
In 1776, Franklin exploits this so that Richard Henry Lee will get approval to propose independence from Virginia, without Franklin and Adams having to ask him directly and then owe him a favor. It works magnificent-LEE.
A non-malicious example arises in Persona 4 as the heroes are all discussing the latest developments in their murder investigation, what they signify and what they should do about it. Chie's only been half-listening to the discussion while thinking it over, and then, as the conversation concludes, she suddenly announces that she's got it all figured out - and proceeds to recite almost exactly what everyone else had just said. It doesn't seem to have been intentional, though she's still immediately called out for it.
The Veil: "Please, Lord, let us join your cult and give you the chip."
Inquisitor: "Excellent idea. I wish I'd thought of it myself."
An unusual variant occurs in thisSchlock Mercenary strip where time travel allows a character to steal an idea from a future version of himself prompting him to say "I'm glad I will have thought of it"
Mob Underling: That's why you're the boss. You're not afraid to go vaudeville on a guy.
In RPG World, Evil Soldier #347 suggests that Galgarion join the heroes in disguise. Galgarion promptly fires him... and then brings up the brilliant idea of joining the heroes in disguise!
In Erfworld, one of Wanda's methods of getting Stanley to do what she wants is to make him think it was his idea.
A repeated gag in Kickassia By episode 3, this has become a habit, to the point where Phelous can count down the seconds until the Critic repeats his idea. By the end of the series, they've done tons of different variations on that gag including the Critic preemptively stealing an idea and having to wait for Phelous to finish his sentence, the Critic hypocritically blaming Phelous for coming up with a bad idea, and Phelous tricking the Critic into suggesting his own beating.
Phelous: Hey guys, uh, I got a idea. This might seem like a shot in the dark, but what if we'd just used weapons?
Thwhomp 1: What we need to do is to gather all thwomps, and take over!
Thwomp 2: That's a stupid idea. What we need to do is take over, by gathering all the thwomps.
The Super Mario World episode "Gopher Bash" has Cheatsy Koopa suggest to Koopa that they steal the cave people's crops, forcing them to get food from Koopa. Slight subversion in that Koopa considers it a brilliant suggestion, but he still remarks "Glad I thought of it".
Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "A Plain Shortage of Planes", Klunk suggests to Dick Dastardly that the squadron buy an airplane to replace the planes that crashed. This is also probably the only time Dastardly did not ask Zilly to translate.
In the Looney Tunes short "Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century", Porky (the eager, young space cadet) decides that the best way to find the elusive Planet X is to follow a row of planets marked A, B, C, etc. Daffy (Duck Dodgers) first laughs at the idea, and then immediately claims it as his own.
Darkwing Duck: Darkwing does this all the time. He will dismiss his daughter or sidekick's plan. Then he has a great idea that, word for word, repeats the plan he just heard. His daughter will often call him on this.
Beastly: A-ha! We could grab those camels and make a getaway!
Shreeky: I've got a better idea! Let's grab those camels and make a getaway!
Beastly: Oh, why didn't I think of that?
Grizzle does this in an episode of Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot. UR-2 suggests that he get the Care Bears to like him, and Grizzle falls on the floor laughing. UR-2, unfazed, continues explaining that if the bears like him, they'll trust him, and Grizzle puts the rest of the pieces together. He claims the plan as his own, ignoring UR-2's objections.
In the Talespin episode "Captains Outrageous", Don Karnage sends Mad Dog and Dumptruck into Cape Suzette to kidnap a rich kid and hold him for ransom. When Mad Dog hears about a "super secret anti-pirate weapon"...
Mad Dog: We can get the kid * and* the weapon. Ooh, wait till Don Karnage gets a load of this...
*Mad Dog gets on the radio to explain to Karnage*
Don Karnage: Two for one...I like it! I like it so much, I must have thought of it myself.
In the story "Dare Duck" from PB&J Otter, Peanut, Jelly and Flick are lost in the woods and Jelly gets the idea to follow a stream downhill in order to return to Lake Hoohaw. Peanut says it's a great idea and Flick agrees, "Great?! It's perfect! Glad I thought of it!"
In an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Robin deduces that Crazy Quilt is going to break into STAR Labs. Batman replies "Of course! He must be going to break into STAR Labs!" The implication here isn't that Batman is stealing Robin's idea, it's that he simply isn't listening because he still thinks of Dick as the sidekick.
Minty: I didn't understand Kimono at first of course, I mean, who understands her at first? "Unity often makes tasks easier to conquer," who understands that? Wysteria: We give Kimono one charm bracelet instead of eight? Minty: See, I didn't get it either. But then I did! We give Kimono one charm bracelet instead of eight!
The episode "Over A Barrel" could also be a variation, Pinkie Pie's suggestion of sharing and caring is insulted by the warring factions' leaders early on, but after this proves to be the right solution to the problem, Twilight Sparkle paraphrases her idea as the day's Aesop.
Pinkie: In the name of the earth ponies, I think I'm gonna name this new place...uh...DIRTVILLE! Applejack: How 'bout "Earth"? Pinkie: EARTH! Congratulations to me for thinking of it!
Happens several times in The Simpsons, often with Bart and Lisa or Homer and Lisa.
American Dad! episode when Stan is hosting a telethon to raise the money to pay for the terrorist torturing devices. Roger actually came up of the idea of a telethon, but Stan thought it was stupid until it's a great idea and takes it as his own. Roger plots revenge by sabotaging the stage as the Phantom Of The Telethon.
In the same episode, it's revealed Roger went though the same thing with Jerry Lewis.
Halvar, the father of Vicky the Viking incurs in this trope in every episode after his son's brilliant plan saves the day. Played somewhat for laughs since Halvar is a rather rustic chieftain.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends had an episode where Frankie had to buy groceries and her suggestion that they ordered pizza was rejected. When she came back, Mr. Herriman, who rejected her idea, told her it took her so long for her to come back the imaginary friend who moved in at the beginning of that episode suggested ordering a pizza.
Justin: Look at that, Stane has gone completely loopy! Who needs remote control? I can just sit back and watch the fireworks.
Sasha: Yes, but if you save that little girl, imagine the press. You'll be a hero and they'll give you the military contract. Forget Mandroids, think about an entire army of Titanium Men.
Justin: And then I could buy out Stark International! Sasha, do you know who the real brains behind this operation is? Me! Hahahahaha! What an ingenious plan I just came up with! Sasha, you could learn a thing or two from me.
Clyde Crashcup from The Alvin Show takes credit for inventions his assistant Leonardo does.
In Garfield's Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving dinner is seemingly ruined so Garfield tries to get Jon to call his grandmother since she's the only one who could potentially salvage things for everyone. Unfortunately, none of the hints he's giving Jon are getting through to him. So finally, Garfield shoves a picture of Grandma Arbuckle in his face.
Jon: I know! I'll call Grandma! John, you're a genius!
Garfield: ...If he had a brain, he'd be dangerous.
This exchange in The Beatles episode "Boys," between the executive of a movie studio and an associate, who pitches the idea of a contest to find a "Mr. Hollywood":
Associate: They held a contest to find Scarlett O'Hara.
Executive: It was a failure.
Associate: They held a contest to find a new Tarzan.
Executive: It was a failure.
Associate: Okay, what do we do? How will find Mr. Hollywood?
Executive: We'll hold a contest.
Thomas Edison is reputed to have done this several times, mostly notoriously to Nikola Tesla. Of course he had to be a bit more forceful, seeing as people don't like seeing potentially incredibly profitable inventions stolen. This really bit Edison on the butt because Tesla managed to beat Edison in the worlds fair bid and the Alternating Current/Direct Current War. But was later awarded the Edison Medal for his accomplishments.
It's not unusual for some people with Asperger's or autism to do this without realizing it, because in memory the storage of information is more likely to be disconnected from the source of the information.
Josef Stalin, when this was politically expedient, brought up in a slightly changed form ideas condemned when they belonged to the rivals or formulated proposals as products of his "counseling with comrades". According to his once-secretary Bazhanov, few minutes after reading the draft of new Party Charter the first time he introduced it to Lenin as a result of development by "we here in the Central Comittee" — of course, this does sound better than "comrades here found one young man with a good project".
Can be done by politicians when presenting a new bill, which is little more than an old rejected bill written by someone else with a new presentation. The difference can be the times, the wording, the party, who's in charge, etc.