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He thinks he invented Java because he was in the room when someone made coffee

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… came up as my wife and I were discussing the “creative hangers-on form” of Stigler’s Law. The original Stigler’s Law, discovered by Roger Merton and popularized by Stephen Stigler, is the idea that in science, no discovery is named after its original discoverer.

In creative circles, it comes up when someone who had little or nothing to do with a creative process takes credit for it. A few of my wife’s friends were like this, dropping by to visit her while she was in the middle of a creative project, describing out loud what she was doing, then claiming, “I told her to do that.”

In the words of Finn from The Rise of Skywalker: “You did not!”

In computing circles, the old joke referred to the Java programming language. I’ve heard several variants, but the distilled version is “He thinks he invented Java because he was in the room when someone made coffee.”¬† Apparently this is a good description of how Java itself was named, down to at least one person¬† claiming they came up with the name Java and others disputing that, even suggesting that they opposed it, claiming instead that someone else in the room was responsible – while that person in turn rejected the idea, noting only that there was some coffee in the room from Peet’s.

Regardless, I dispute Howard Aiken’s saying “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” Nah. Once you’ve forced an idea down someone’s throat, they won’t just swallow it, they’ll claim it was in their stomach all along.

-the Centaur

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