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chestnut An old, stale joke; a trite, oft-repeated tale or story. Although the exact origin of this term is unknown, one plausible explanation is that it comes from an old melodrama, The Broken Sword, by William Dillon. In the play, Captain Zavier is retelling, for the umpteenth time, a story having to do with a cork tree. His listener Pablo breaks in suddenly, correcting cork tree to chestnut tree, saying “I should know as well as you having heard you tell the tale these twenty-seven times.” The popularization of the term is attributed to the comedian William Warren, who had played the role of Pablo many times, and who is said to have repeated Pablo’s line about the chestnut in response to an unoriginal story told at a dinner party. The expression has been in use since 1883.
cock and bull story See NONSENSE.
fish story See EXAGGERATION.
Joe Miller A stale joke; a chestnut. In 1739 a man by the name of John Mot-tley put together a book of jests and called it Joe Miller’s Jest-Book, after the name of an illiterate comedian who lived 1684-1738. Current use of this name to describe an overused joke or saying implies that Mottley’s compilation was not very funny, and perhaps included jokes which were old even at that time.
Many of the anecdotes are mere Joe Millers. (Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character, 1870)
megillah A long, detailed explanation or account; a lengthy, often exaggerated story; frequently in the phrase the whole megillah. Megillah is Hebrew for ‘roll, scroll’ and commonly refers to any or all of a certain five books of the Old Testament to be read on specified feast days. The extraordinary length and tediousness of these readings gave rise to the slang sense of the term as it is popularly used outside of Judaism today.
Feeding all the megillah to the papers about his family of Irish Polacks who came over with the Pilgrim Fathers. (Punch, May, 1968)
old wives’ tale See SUPERSTITION.
shaggy dog story An involved, often seemingly interminable story that derives its humor from its unexpected, absurd, or punning ending; any joke or story involving a talking animal, especially a dog. This expression describes the wryly humorous stories which feature a shaggy dog as the main character or as the speaker of a surprise punch line. Though most popular in the 1940s, shaggy dog stories are still recounted in certain contemporary circles.
song and dance See EXAGGERATION.
|Noun||1.||anecdote - short account of an incident (especially a biographical one)|