Chestnut is a British slang term for an old joke, often as old chestnut. The term is also used for a piece of music in the repertoire that has grown stale or hackneyed with too much repetition.
A plausible explanation for the term given by the Oxford English Dictionary is that it originates from a play named "The Broken Sword" by William Dimond, 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 play was first performed in 1816, but the term did not come into widespread usage until the 1880s.
- old chestnut in Wiktionary
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