[Ads-l] Antedating "Chestnut" - an old joke or story

Andy Bach afbach at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 10 11:52:02 EST 2019


> Title: The Broken Sword: A Grand Melo-Drama Interspersed with Songs,
Chorusses, &c.

So, is "melo-drama" an early version of things like "rom-com"?  I found
"Obi A Melo-Drama in Two Acts", a "slave play" from 1800ish
On May 21, 1801, less than a year after its opening at the Haymarket, New
York's Park Theatre staged the first American performance of Fawcett's
serio-pantomime *Obi*.

and "The Warlock of the Glen. A Melo-Drama, in two acts"
https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007708084

the 1800 version has the dash, later editions(?) seem to have dropped it.

On Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 6:48 AM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> HathiTrust has an edition of "The Broken Sword" with an 1816 date. The
> text differs a bit from the version Peter gives on his website (from a
> later edition).
>
> Year: 1816
> Title: The Broken Sword: A Grand Melo-Drama Interspersed with Songs,
> Chorusses, &c.
> Author: William Dimond, Esq.
> Edition: Second
> Published: Printed and Published by J. Barker, London
> Note: As performed at the Theatre-Royale, Covent-Garden, with
> universal applause.
> Page 13
>
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b112842?urlappend=%3Bseq=5
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b112842'
> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.$b112842?urlappend=%3Bseq=17
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Zav. . . . At the dawn of the fourth day's journey, I entered the wood
> of Collares, when suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree----
>
> Pab. (Jumping up.) A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut.
>
> Zav. Bah! you booby, I say, a cork.
>
> Pab. And I swear, a chesnut--Captain! this is the twenty-seventh time
> I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a
> chesnut, till now.
>
> Zav. Did I? Well, a chesnut be it then. But, take your seat again.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson O'Toole
>
> On Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 6:38 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu>
> wrote:
> >
> > I think William Dimond's play "The Broken Sword, or Torrent in the
> Valley" is indeed the origin of this sense of chestnut, as I noted in
> several comments with quotations at "Oxford Etymologist" in 2009* (agreeing
> with the suggestion in OED, which omits the line of the Captian agreeing
> that in the oft-repeated story it was a chestnut, then; also, later, cf.
> Green's.)
> >
> > There are even more editions and performances and theater world links
> than I listed there, many in several US cities (and also an undated
> adaptation in Notre Dame, IN).
> >
> > I haven't yet checked the French play (apparently available in a
> multi-volume work at HathiTrust), also performed in 1816, of which it is an
> adaptation.
> >
> >
> > Stephen
> >
> > http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> >
> >
> >
> > *https://blog.oup.com/2009/09/ever-green-chestnut/#comments
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Peter Reitan <...>
> > Sent: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 7:31 PM
> > To: ...
> > Subject: [ADS-L] Antedating "Chestnut" - an old joke or story
> >
> > "Chestnut" is a few years older than the earliest citation I have seen
> elsewhere, which was 1880.
> >
> > "Chestnut" dates to at least 1876, when it was defined with almost
> precisely its current meaning.
> >
> > "“Chestnut” means “old story,” or “old joke.” We don’t mean the
> vegetable chestnut, but the technical, ejaculatory one."
> >
> > The Republican Journal (Belfast, Maine), May 25, 1876, page 2.
> >
> > The next earliest examples start to appear beginning three years later.
> Most examples related to minstrel acts telling bad jokes, but "chestnuts"
> or "old chestnuts" could also refer to old songs or familiar plays.
> >
> > The word seems to have picked up steam after a new joke went viral in
> 1884:
> >
> > "Jenny – Why are old jokes called chestnuts? Don’t know, unless it is
> because they are bad-in-age. Boston Folio."
> >
> > Detroit Free Press, September 11, 1884, page 8.
> >
> > The popularity of the joke and the newly widespread word led to a brief
> fad of carrying "chestnut bells" that people would ring, obnoxiously, when
> someone started telling an old or familiar joke or story.
> >
> > I also found an earlier purported explanation of the origin of the word,
> which appeared before the joke went viral, unlike the several other
> explanations from the period I've seen elsewhere which all appeared between
> a year or three years after the viral joke.
> >
> > This earliest explanation claims (I don't believe it) that the
> expression started in St. Louis where one newspaper that used lots of old
> jokes was located on Chestnut Street (which is true, I checked).  A rival
> paper claimed that the other paper was routinely called the "Old Chestnut"
> because of its location (no evidence of that), and old jokes were called
> "Old Chestnuts" because they came from the other paper.  This explanation
> dates to 1881.
> >
> > Grammarphobia has a good post that goes through the other explanations
> from the period.
> >
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.grammarphobia.com_blog_2017_01_old-2Dchestnut.html&d=DwIGaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=cpUSUrCi4ahRSEqLX86ZR5UfnA5eFuLQGxWGsddggz8&s=mHVyp_9UlG6-qERHo7sH4C1bX0T8u4CuPv9yYIt9hEM&e=
> >
> > One of the explanations claimed that it happened in 1867 with a touring
> stage troupe performing a particular play with a funny line about a
> chestnut tree that comes up as one of the characters is retelling an old
> story but saying cork tree, instead of chestnut this time - "Chestnut!"
> >
> > Anyways, the story names four people who were present at the time, and I
> was able to find an advertisement for a performance of that play, in the
> state where he said it happened, that involved all of those particular
> performers in 1869, which seems close, and may lend a bit of credence to
> his story.  Another person told a similar story, about the same play, but
> said it happened years after the first known example of the word.
> >
> > The "bad in age"/badinage pun has its own long history dating to the
> 1820s, as does a prototypical bad pun about the differences between a
> chestnut horse and a horse chestnut which came from the House of Commons in
> the 18-aughts.
> >
> > I have a post about it all here:
> >
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__esnpc.blogspot.com_2019_01_horses-2Djokes-2Dand-2Dbells-2Dunfunny-2Dhistory.html&d=DwIGaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=cpUSUrCi4ahRSEqLX86ZR5UfnA5eFuLQGxWGsddggz8&s=VC41SBxc1VN5fkYAjkPQSSpDTjzj-tghdZ2Z_ErDhZU&e=
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
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>
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>


-- 

a

Andy Bach,
afbach at gmail.com
608 658-1890 cell
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