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old chestnut

A stale joke, story, or saying, as in Dad keeps on telling that old chestnut about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb. This expression comes from William Dimond's play, The Broken Sword (1816), in which one character keeps repeating the same stories, one of them about a cork tree, and is interrupted each time by another character who says “Chestnut, you mean . . . I have heard you tell the joke twenty-seven times and I am sure it was a chestnut.”
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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  • "Don't pass along that old chestnut that 'angels can do no better,'" grimaced Dave.

  • Of course the old chestnut was dying; but that did not concern the noctules.

    "Wee Tim'rous Beasties" Douglas English
  • Soon he came dancing along with another nut to put in the hollow of the old chestnut tree.

    Old Mother West Wind Thornton W. Burgess
  • Some one has stolen a store of nuts from the hollow in the old chestnut tree.

    Old Mother West Wind Thornton W. Burgess
  • Theres an old chestnut of a story you may remember that illustrates the point Im making.

  • Sprouts in old chestnut clearings are often allowed to remain, and sometimes they are grafted to the improved varieties.

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