I’m looking for a word or phrase to describe when Source B quotes or references Source A, and then Source B becomes so much more well-known than Source A that people attribute the source of the quote to Source B and most references to the quote are to Source B.

For example, in The Shining, Jack saying “Heeeeere’s Johnny” was a reference to Ed McMahon introducing Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, but now almost all quotes of or references to that line are allusions to The Shining. In fact, if you ask people where that line originally comes from, many people will probably say it comes from The Shining, not even knowing that the line in The Shining is a reference to something else.

Another example is that almost every use of the phrase “brave new world” in pop culture is a reference to Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, not to Miranda’s line from The Tempest, which is what Huxley took the title from. The phrase is often used as a synonym for “dystopia,” although while Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a dystopian society that has taken technology too far, Miranda’s line was genuinely optimistic: “Oh, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in 't!” The connotation of Huxley’s reference to the line has almost completely overtaken the connotation of Shakespeare’s original line in pop culture.

Does anyone know a term that describes this phenomenon of the allusion becoming more well-known than the source? So far, the closest term I’ve found is “the Weird Al Effect” (on tvtropes.org), but that applies only to parodies overshadowing the work that is being parodied. Is there a broader term that applies to all allusions, not just parodies?

5 Answers 5


The closest term is Pop-cultural osmosis (also mentioned in tvtropes and similar to the Weird Al Effect). It is a broader term but it also covers allusions or quotes known by many people through popular works but actually they have an original source that is forgotten or known by less people.

Classics, almost by definition, are works that are considered to be of high quality, are influential on later works, and are widely known. However, one will often find that only scholars and enthusiasts have first-hand knowledge of the material in question, and that the masses know it either only by title or by homages, parodies, direct references and allusions found in more populist works. Essentially, various bits and pieces of high culture are most widely known through their use in pop culture.


  • Many people associate the line "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum." with Duke Nukem rather than with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's character in They Live!.

  • The infamous "YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!" line from The Room was actually done as an homage to Rebel Without a Cause. Most people don't know this, and think that it originated in The Room. Additionally, the comments sections of most YouTube uploads of the Rebel Without A Cause scene are flooded with references to The Room.

  • Many associate "The game's afoot" with Sherlock Holmes, but it's actually from Henry V


The meaning seems to be captured by:


2.0 Appear more prominent or important than:

2.1 Be more impressive or successful than (another person):




Divert attention from (someone) towards oneself:

  • 1
    Overshadow came to my mind immediately, but I will add a few others in another answer.
    – ScotM
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:19
  • 1
    As a note: OP mentioned overshadowing in the last paragraph.
    – ermanen
    Jan 23, 2015 at 22:27

The allusion took prominence from the original:

Steal the spotlight

To focus on the fact that the allusion blocked the prominence of the original:


1.1 Deprive (someone or something) of significance or power:

To add the idea that the allusion subdued the prominence of the original:


(subjugate someone/thing to)

Make someone or something subordinate to:

The allusion lessens the original:



1.0 Cause to seem small or insignificant in comparison:


Nouns to replace the Weird Al Effect:




or metaphorically


Oedipus/Electra Complex


The interesting notion that you mention, at least as it applies to people, made me think right away of the underlying themes of "Tender is the Night" and "A Star is Born" (the original, of course!),i.e., how one person has become strong as another disappears.
However, the "Nicole Diver Effect" or the "Vicki Lester Effect" would probably mean nothing to most people.

"Piggybacking" or "coat-tailing" would certainly enjoy greater recognition and they might even apply to a certain extent, or even mixing metaphors to get "the coat-tail wagging the coat effect."

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