Anecdote: King George II and the madness of General Wolfe

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 2 02:08:55 UTC 2011

Wilson Gray wrote
> In radio days, there were zillions of references to the "Joe Miller
> Joke Book" as the source of *other* comedians' stale routines, as
> opposed to one's own popping-fresh "material." Heretofore, I hadn't
> known that was actually such a thing or that it dated back to 1840.

The OED has relevant material about "Joe Miller" listed under Joe noun 2.

 4.   Joe Miller n.  [ < the name of Joseph Miller, a comedian
(1684–1738), attached to a popular jest-book published after his

 a. A jest-book.

 b. A jest or joke; esp. a stale joke, a ‘chestnut’. Hence
(nonce-wds.)   Joe-ˈMillerism n. the practice of retailing stale
jokes.  Joe-ˈMillerize v. (trans.) to render jocular or comic, to turn
into a joke (see quot. 1866 at -ize suffix 6).[Miller's chief
reputation was made for him after his death by John Mottley, who was
commissioned by a publisher, T. Reid, in 1739 to compile a collection
of jests, and unwarrantably entitled his work ‘Joe Miller's jests, or
the Wit's Vade-mecum’. Dict. National Biogr. s.v. Joseph Miller.]

1789    G. Parker Life's Painter xii. 96   What‥should not be found in
every common jest book, or a Joe Miller, page 14.
1829    Scott Antiquary (new ed.) II. xviii. 237   A fool and his
money are soon parted, nephew—there is a Joe Miller for your Joe

The American Dialect Society -

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