Old chestnut



    Calling something an old chestnut is describing the item as overused, boring, or tedious from repetition. It is usually used when describing a story, joke, or topic of discussion. The phrase is much more popular overseas.

    The phrase may be used without the modifier old. Calling something a chestnut still carries the connotation of it being overused and without humor.


    1. I seem to have waked up anxious to quibble. The provenance of “the old chestnut” is cited as a play from 1816, or, as the Grammarist couched it in his amusing and erudite observations, “a 1816 play”. I don’t think his right index missed the “n” key, I think he inserted the date after writing “a play”, and then forgot to change the article. But only he can tell us which. Or she, of course.

    2. I suspect a bit more obvious and ancient than this, if you have a bowl of chesnuts then you would want to peel and eat the nicer new chesnuts, an old chesnut superficially looks like the rest but when picked up may rattle and won’t be as nice so gets put back in the bowl, so the old chesnut tends to rattle around the bowl for perpetuity, nobody wants to bother peeling it. So old chesnut means something that tends to hang around forever, everybody knows its there but it won’t go away.

    3. “The phrase is much more popular overseas.”
      Overseas from the UK or overseas from the US?

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