Chestnut (as in that old chestnut!)
A chestnut meaning a venerable old joke or story is from the late 19th century and is thought to have originated in America despite its first appearance in an early 19th century melodrama The Broken Sword written by an Englishman, William Dimond and first performed in London. In this melodrama, one of the characters, called Captain Xavier, repeatedly tells unlikely stories. In one story about a cork tree, he is interrupted by another character in the play called Pablo who says, “No. It was a chestnut and I ought to know because I have heard the story 27 times”. Dimond’s play was soon forgotten by the public but was well remembered in acting circles. According to the American citation c.1884, a group of American actors were having dinner and one of them was telling an old joke. An actor by the name of William Warren Jr. interrupted the story with the same quotation from Dimond’s melodrama. Everyone thought it extremely amusing and the American newspapers of the day publicised the story thus giving it currency from that time onwards. While some American dictionaries give credence to this etymology, the OED maintains the origin is unknown.