There Must Be a Word

Is there a term for misperceiving a historical relationship between two works, images or tropes so that the earlier of the two is falsely thought to have derived from the later one?

I was thinking about this in terms of the inevitability of some movie critics thinking that the film version of The Dark is Rising is a rip-off of Harry Potter when in fact its source fiction predates Potter by a considerable margin.

I remember a similar instance when I was working on my Saturday morning cartoons book: I came across a TV critic who denounced one version of Super Friends because he thought the character of Darkseid was an outrageous ripoff of Darth Vader, when in fact Darkseid predates Darth Vader by seven years.

I also recall thinking when I was a kid, the first time I saw the TV show The Honeymooners, that it was a rip-off of the Warner Brothers mice cartoons.

Is there actually a term for this? If not, let’s invent one.

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12 Responses to There Must Be a Word

  1. Robbie Griggs says:

    Yes, it is the logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc. This isn’t exactly post hoc ergo propter hoc, since the thing that follows actually precedes.

  2. Sdorn says:

    Let’s slide by the Latin, especially since I’m not sure if Robbie Griggs’ suggestion should be corrected to pre hoc ergo propter hoc, prior hoc ergo propter hoc, or something else. (I took Spanish, not Latin.) How about a pop-culture reference instead: “Cognitive time-travel dementia”?

  3. “Ahistorical” is the closest thing we’ve got, I think.

    If you want a neologism, some combination of Chronological and Confusion might work: “Chronofusion” perhaps?

  4. Withywindle2 says:

    (Same as Withywindle; logging in from a different computer.)

    I think the phrase/word you’re looking for may be:

    accidental coincidence / homoplasy – A reading whose similarity with a corresponding reading in another text is not due to common descent.

  5. Jmayhew says:

    If I understand you correctly, It’s confusing the order in which one learns of things oneself with the order in which they occurred chronologically. That’s a little more subtle than post hoc propter hoc, which is simply confusing sequence with causation.

    I don’t have a fancy name for it, but I’ve experienced it many times. For example, thinking Unamuno’s Niebla was a cliché because I’d read many books written after Niebla that did the same thing.

    Maybe “narcissistic anachronism”?

  6. How about “derivative precedence”? Or in a bit more casual lingo “anticipatory rip-off”? The term should be saved for works where the derivative work transcends & exceeds the value of its origins – “Darkseid was an anticipatory rip-off of Darth Vader.”

  7. Timothy Burke says:

    “prescient derivative”

  8. I don’t have the answer to your question, but it’s some sort of logical fallacy.

    Edward Tufte points out strange use of the word “influences” to describe the relationship between an artist/work and an earlier artist/work. As though the agency existed within the person in the past, and the later person was merely the passive recipient of the predecessor’s intentions. It does seem to imply that an artist draws on earlier works, consciously or unconsciously.

  9. That last sentence was supposed to begin “It does seem ODD to imply….”

  10. “anachronism” actually covers it pretty well; I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that one earlier.

    They’re all nice ways of saying “ignorant blather,” anyway….

  11. Rob MacD says:

    As usual, The Simpsons provides, if not a term, at least something to say in these situations. When Krusty gets prank-called (a staple of his own act) by the johnny-come-lately marionette Gabbo, he shouts into the telephone, “If this is anybody but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit!”

    So whenever questions of precedence and priority erupt among my creative friends, somebody is liable to say “If this is anybody but [actual originator], [purported originator] is stealing [intermediary]’s bit!” or some variation.

    “If this is anybody but J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling is stealing Susan Cooper’s bit!”

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