I'm sure there must be another phrase but I just can't seem to find it. I'm not looking for a word to replace "unsung", I prefer a completely new phrase/idiom that expresses the same meaning. Thank you.

  • 1
    A bit more context or your example sentence would spark a list of alternative phrases and idioms.
    – Elliot
    May 19 '20 at 22:22
  • Hi Elliot, I'm writing a post on the ingredient "glycerol" and wanted to title it "glycerol: the unsung hero" as it's a beneficial but overlooked ingredient. I would prefer another phrase instead of this one. Any recommendations? Thanks!
    – Zoe
    May 19 '20 at 22:50
  • Hi Zoe, could you edit to add that phrase to the body of the question for readers, comments tend to not be around for very long. May 19 '20 at 23:34

How about force behind the scene, someone who operates in the background but who works to make all the right things happen without getting or seeking the credit they deserve?


Although it's not gender neutral (that might not matter), there is backroom boy.

From The Phrase Finder:

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Backroom boy'?
One who works in anonymity in an organization while others take on more public roles.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Backroom boy'?
First used to describe the anonymous technicians and scientists who worked behind the scenes in the UK during World War Two. Lord Beaverbrook coined it in a speech in March 1941:

"Now who is responsible for this work of development on which so much depends? To whom must the praise be given? To the boys in the back rooms. They do not sit in the limelight. But they are the men who do all the work. Many of them are Civil Servants."

Despite that British source, Google Ngram Viewer shows that it's roughly twice as common in print in the US as in the UK.

It's also still in use relatively recently.

From the 2018 article "A week the Ontario PCs will live to regret" by Richard Forbes (emphasis mine):

… Certainly, there’s a market out there for the angry populism that Ford will sell to Ontarians. Like a bull in a china shop, he stands to do a lot of damage within his own party, attacking the legitimacy of Vic Fedeli and Caroline Mulroney (a popular contender) as a ‘backroom boy’ and a ‘centrist plutocrat,’ respectively.

From the 2019 article "'Not the usual way?' On the involvement of an East German couple with the planning of the Ethiopian capital" by Monika Motylińska e Phuong Phan (emphasis mine):

The Baumbachs were more in line with the gendered stereotype, with Peter being the one in the spotlight. Ute’s role was similar to that of Edwin Maxwell Fry, who has been described by Iain Jackson and Jessica Holland as the “backroom-boy.”

Depending on context, if you use the phrase, you might want to put it in quotation marks to highlight its informal use.

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