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canned laughter

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Also, canned music. Prerecorded sound effects that can be played repeatedly, as in That canned laughter doesn't make his jokes any funnier, or Canned music is greatly reducing the number of musical jobs available. O. Henry had the term in his story, Cabbages and Kings (1903): “We'll export canned music to the Latins.” Canned laughter today is often used in broadcasting to simulate the reaction of a nonexistent live audience. [c. 1900]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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