English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've been writing a paper about a math concept (called "permanent") that, upon its discovery, nobody really cared about it because it has very few useful properties. It was until several years later that someone realised that it is actually pretty important/interesting.

So, as you can observe, I'm talking about something that has been "on the dark" for several years, and then suddenly it was the boom.

How do you describe such thing? Something that was apparently completely useless and then it became fairly important? For context, I'm trying to figure out a nice title for the paper.

Here's a dumb version of the title I'm trying to make up:

The permanent: rise from nothing to something.

share|improve this question
A 'math concept (called "permanent") that, upon its discovery, nobody really cared about it because it has very few useful properties'? I thought that was a necessary condition for a mathematical bombshell. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 20 '14 at 13:32
@EdwinAshworth: I think its time under the shadows was much more prolonged that other concepts. Well, I dunno. – Omega Apr 20 '14 at 19:46
Omega, it looks better now. – Tristan r Apr 20 '14 at 19:57
It's called an unforeseen crisis. – Hot Licks Mar 8 '15 at 22:45


... 2 : marked by a suspension of activity ...

The idea lay dormant.

Other possibilities are latent or quiescent.

The latent potential went unnoticed. The idea lay quiescent for some time.

share|improve this answer
I couldn't improve on 'The idea lay dormant.' – Edwin Ashworth Apr 20 '14 at 21:48

I don't often distinguish a phrase as having the perfect context but I think the common phrase ahead of its time, is perfect here.

share|improve this answer

A phrase I've been hearing more of recently is dark horse, defined by MW as

1a. a usually little known contender (as a racehorse) that makes an unexpectedly good showing

But little known could also mean that the dark horse is a brand-new thing; dark horse may not capture the period of being virtually unknown or overlooked. For this, consider sleeper, defined by MW to mean

4: someone or something unpromising or unnoticed that suddenly attains prominence or value: the low-budget film became the summer's sleeper

This term is commonly used for cinema as WP observes in its description of sleeper hit:

A sleeper hit is a term used in the entertainment industry for a film that plays successfully for a long period and becomes a big success, despite having relatively little promotion or lacking a successful opening. It is also used in a similar sense for music releases.

share|improve this answer

If you want a phrase that is synonymous with sudden fame and popularity after years of relative obscurity, consider the following:

  • Catapulted into the limelight

His brilliant performance in the play catapulted him to stardom Dictionary.com

Often used when referring to actors, film directors etc. whose talents were either ignored, unappreciated or underestimated by critics and the public alike until they get "discovered" in a hugely successful film which launches them, figuratively speaking, to overnight stardom. This is an effective analogy for the math concept "permanent".

Until recently the role of "permanent" had been gravely underestimated when it was catapulted into the limelight ....

Continuing with the analogy we have the expressions

Permanent: The rise from obscurity to stardom
Permanent ignored by many in the world of mathematics until it finally rose from obscurity to fame

share|improve this answer

How about the Eureka effect?

The eureka effect, also known as the aha! moment, refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Mar 8 '15 at 22:59

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.