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Invention Pretension

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"My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark."

So you want a little glory or fame for you or your favorite people? Who doesn't? A time-honored method of gaining such acclaim is to create something, be it a new product, a work of art or literature, or even a new social/economic/political system.

What's that? You're not creative? Not a problem! All you have to do is make an audacious and ridiculous claim to something that's already been invented!

For the dubious attribution of an invention or institution to your culture or nationality, see In the Original Klingon. Also see Namesake Gag, wherein a common object is said to have been invented by somebody with the same name (and, within in the story, it really was).

Likely to be a Discredited Trope now (at least in works set in the present day), since two minutes on The Other Wiki is usually sufficient to debunk such a claim.


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  • From the album Another Monty Python Record, "Stake Your Claim" is a panel show that features a man who claims to have built the Taj Mahal. He bails after the first guest has his claim refuted (to the presenter: "I can see I won't last a minute with you").
  • Harry Hill sometimes jokes that he once had a brilliant idea which he wrote down on a piece of paper and showed it to Bill Gates, but Gates refused to give it back. A few years later... Microsoft Word for Windows!

     Comic Books 
  • Played for laughs in Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen (2019). During the "secret superpowers" interview, Superman claims he invented the dodecahedron. Given that the whole interview is silly, it seems unlikely he expected anyone to believe it.

     Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Spaceship," Rhino's dementia has him saying all kinds of outlandish things, including claims that he invented the telephone, the microscope, the Internet, and the steam engine, as well as assisting in the creation of such things as radio, television, the electric lightbulb, the modern assembly line, and corn flakes.

  • In Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, the eponymous characters try to compensate for their lack of achievement by claiming at the eponymous reunion that they invented Post-Its. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the first Austin Powers movie, Dr. Evil noted in a therapy session that his father had a penchant for making audacious claims, eg: that he invented the question mark.
  • In The Waterboy, when Bobby asserts that Ben Franklin invented electricity, his mother retorts "I invented electricity! Ben Franklin is the devil!"
  • In the Mockumentary about The Rutles, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, a New Orleans bluesman by the name of Ruttling Orange Peel claims to have come up with all of The Rutles' music. Someone else who is close to him, however, calls him a liar and insists that just last week he also claims to have started The Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra, and Lawrence Welk (all while Ruttling repeatedly insists "I did!")
  • In the remake of The Italian Job (2003), Seth Green's character claims to have invented Napster and that his room-mate stole it from him while he was sleeping (hence the name).
  • In Reign of Fire, Quinn and a friend are reenacting the climax of The Empire Strikes Back for the children (who were all born after the disaster and so never saw the actual film). After they finish, a starry eyed little boy asks Quinn if he wrote it. Quinn thinks for a moment, and then says "of course I did."
  • A deleted scene from Out Cold has Stumpy claiming he invented snowboarding.


  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Party claim credit for all inventions since an actual period of time that keep getting older as time progresses. Winston remembers when they said they invented helicopters, then added airplanes, and expects they'll eventually say the same about the steam engine.
  • Variation: In Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk, Lilly Hellman loves to take credit for lots of historical achievements like saving Apollo 13 (I think), especially once anyone who was actually there has died and cannot contradict her. Heck, she made a musical out of her false life story.

     Live Action TV  

  • In an early episode of Boy Meets World, we meet, for the first time, Shawn's father Chet, who makes a pathetic attempt to hide what a bum he is by making a number of audacious claims, including claiming to have invented CNN.
  • In California Dreams, there was an Asian girl who mentioned that her ancestor invented chopsticks. When asked about it she said it wasn't the eating utensil, but the song.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Hocus-Pocus And Frisby". Frisby claims (among other things) that he invented the rear-engine automobile for Henry Ford.
  • In the British sitcom The Bounder, the protagonist (played by Peter Bowles) impresses a woman by reciting his poem, "So We'll Go No More A-Roving" (actually written in the 19th century by Byron). At the end of the episode, the woman he's really attracted to finds out he's been claiming to write it, and says: "You wrote that? You phony!" In the next episode, she says Byron's dead, and he asks, "Yes, but has anyone seen the grave?"
  • In one episode of Seinfeld, Jerry and George are trying to convince Elaine of the lengths men will go to to get a woman to date them:
    George Costanza (gravely): Elaine, I once told a woman that I coined the phrase.... "Pardon my french".
  • Time travelling bigamist Gary Sparrow, the 'hero' of Goodnight Sweetheart, claims authorship of large chunks of the post-war era's popular music while on his visits to London during World War Two. He even has the audacity to make money from it. To be fair, nobody in the 1940's would have known he was lying.

     Video Games  

  • Granddaughter Stinky from Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space makes absurd claims if you inquire about anything in her restaurant, which also has signed photos by no others than Jesus, Madre Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and other equally-improbable clients.
  • N. Brio in Crash: Mind Over Mutant continuously claims he's invented pretty much everything due to Cortex stealing credit for his Evolv-O-Ray several games ago.
    Greetings, little peons which I invented, you see before a glorious history of evil devices that I, ME... Invented. Over time, the disgusting heroes of this world, which I invented! ME! Not Cortex! Read your bible, I wrote it!... Heroes like lazy bandicoots just leave these wonderful toys to rot where they fall... But Dr. Cortex, who said he invented many things, LIAR!... Says "Hurry! Build me a space head and many NV devices!" So, I have invented... Recycling!

     Web Animation 

     Web Comics  

  • King Steve from 8-Bit Theater enjoys this. Right up to claiming he built his hundreds of years old castle and the concept of inventing itself
  • An astronaut in Mountain Time claims his grandpa invented the act of placing one leg outside of the covers to cool off in bed.
  • In an early Penny Arcade strip, a drunken Tycho claims to have invented the hippopotamus.

     Western Animation  
  • Clyde Crashcup of The Alvin Show is a scientist who claims to have invented things already in practice, using a magic pen to "create" them. The inventions still have bugs to be worked out.
  • In Archer, the titular character, Sterling Archer, claims to have invented turtlenecks (or at least their use as ideal clothing for covert ops). He'll claim not to have invented them when sober (only to have noted their tactical potential), but when drunk or woozy from blood loss will claim full credit for their invention with a passion. His mother finding "his first turtleneck" in a box of his baby stuff shoots down that claim convincingly.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Cosmo claims to have invented oxygen to fit in at a party. He then tries to charge the guests for using it.
  • The Simpsons
    • Grampa Simpson claims to have invented the toilet and kissing (as a new means of spreading germs).
    • When Homer made the family join the Movementarians all the answers in school were like this, which is how they were able to covert Lisa.
      Mrs. Krabappel: And who can tell me where thunder and lightning come from? Yes, Bart?
      Bart: The Leader, ma'am.
      Mrs. Krabappel: Very good, Bart! And who invented Morse Code?
      Bart: Oh, I should know this one... the.. the Leader?
      Mrs. Krabappel: Ah, correct again!

     Real Life