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Banbury tale

A story that does not make sense or which rambles circuitously without apparent end. The old sailor, after several glasses of whiskey too many, began to tell some rambling Banbury tale, which none of us were able to decipher.
See also: Banbury, tale

old wives' tale

A now-debunked story or idea that was once believed, often superstitiously. How can you believe in that old wives' tale? Oh, that's just an old wives' tale! A broken mirror does not guarantee seven years' bad luck.
See also: old, tale

fish story

 and fish tale
Fig. a great big lie. (Like a fisherman who exaggerates the size of the fish that got away.) That's just a fish story. Don't try to fool me. He's a master at the fish tale. Maybe he should be a politician.
See also: fish, story

old wives' tale

Fig. a myth or superstition. You really don't believe that stuff about starving a cold do you? It's just an old wives' tale.
See also: old, tale

tale never loses in the telling

Prov. When people tell stories, they tend to exaggerate. Johnny's bicycle accident tale never loses in the telling; he convinced his friends that four semi trucks had been involved, when in fact he only ran into one parked car.
See also: lose, never, tale, telling

tale of woe

a sad story; a list of personal problems; an excuse for failing to do something. I listened to her tale of woe without saying anything. This tale of woe that we have all been getting from Kelly is just too much.
See also: of, tale, woe

tell its own story

 and tell its own tale
Fig. [for the state of something] to indicate clearly what has happened. The upturned boat told its own tale. The fisherman had drowned. The girl's tear-stained face told its own story.
See also: own, story, tell

thereby hangs a tale

there is an interesting story connected with this matter. Yes, she comes in late most mornings, and thereby hangs a tale. She has a drinking problem.
See also: hang, tale

Thereby/Therein hangs a tale.

  (British & Australian humorous)
something that you say when you have been asked about something that needs a long explanation 'So what were you doing in Nick's garage at three o'clock in the morning?' 'Ah, thereby hangs a tale.'
See also: hang, tale

live to tell the tale

to still be alive after a dangerous or frightening experience I should imagine very few people have fallen from that height and lived to tell the tale. I had dinner with her and lived to tell the tale.
See also: live, tale, tell

an old wives' tale

a piece of advice or an idea which a lot of people believed in the past but which we now know is wrong It's an old wives' tale that drinking alcohol before you go to bed helps you sleep.
See also: old, tale

a tall story/tale

a story or a statement that is difficult to believe because it is too exciting or interesting He told me a tall story about having met some top models in a nightclub.
See also: story, tall

tell its own tale

  (British & Australian)
if something tells its own tale, it shows the truth about a situation She may smile in public, but the expression in her eyes tells its own tale.
See also: own, tale, tell

tell tales

to tell someone in authority about something bad that someone has done because you want to cause trouble for them (often + about ) She wasn't very popular at school - she was the sort of kid who was always telling tales about other kids. I had half a mind to tell my boss about him but I didn't want her to think I was telling tales.
See can't tell arse from elbow, live to tell the tale
See also: tales, tell

fish story

An improbable, boastful tale, as in He came up with some fish story about his winnings at the track. This expression alludes to the tendency of fishermen to exaggerate the size of their catch. [Early 1800s]
See also: fish, story

old wives' tale

A superstition, as in Toads cause warts? That's an old wives' tale. This expression was already known in ancient Greece, and a version in English was recorded in 1387. Despite invoking bigoted stereotypes of women and old people, it survives.
See also: old, tale

tall tale

A fanciful or greatly exaggerated story, as in Some youngsters love tall tales about creatures from outer space coming to earth. This idiom uses tall in the sense of "exaggerated." [Mid-1800s]
See also: tale, tall

tell tales

Divulge secrets, as in Don't trust him; he's apt to tell tales. This expression was first recorded about 1350. A variant, tell tales out of school, first recorded in 1530, presumably alluded to schoolchildren gossiping but was soon broadened to revealing secret or private information. Both may be obsolescent.
See also: tales, tell

thereby hangs a tale

That detail or incident reminds one of another story, as in So he went without supper, but thereby hangs a tale. This expression, embodying the pun on tail and tale, was used by Shakespeare in at least four of his plays and presumably was well known before that. [1500s]
See also: hang, tale

fairy tale

and bedtime story
n. a simplistic and condescending explanation for something; a lie. I don’t want to hear a fairy tale, just the facts, ma’am. I’ve already heard your little bedtime story. You’ll have to do better than that!
See also: fairy, tale

fish story

and fish tale
n. a great big lie. (Like the fisherman who exaggerates the size of the fish that got away.) All we got was a fish story about his luck with the girls. What a liar! He’s a master at the fish tale. Maybe he should be a politician.
See also: fish, story

fish tale

See also: fish, tale

tale of woe

n. a sad story; a list of personal problems; an excuse for failing to do something. I listened to her tale of woe without saying anything.
See also: of, tale, woe
References in classic literature ?
Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood.
I am named Umslopogaas, son of Mopo," he answered, "and my tale shall be told when yours is done; let us sleep
I have sent, for your private consideration, a list of the contents of this curious piece, which I shall perhaps subjoin, with your approbation, to the third volume of my Tale, in case the printer's devil should continue impatient for copy, when the whole of my narrative has been imposed.
In order to prevent mistake, it may be well to say that the incidents of this tale are purely a fiction.
And he told tales of blockade -long weeks of swaying at anchor, varied only by the departure and return of steamers that had used up their coal (there was no change for the sailing-ships); of gales and cold - cold that kept two hundred men, night and day, pounding and chopping at the ice on cable, blocks, and rigging, when the galley was as red-hot as the fort's shot, and men drank cocoa by the bucket.
Harley Kennan did not believe, and never did believe, his wife's report of the tales Jerry told.
Then as he changed, the tales he listened to changed too.
Its tales of the Ethiopian Prester John, of diamonds that by proper care can be made to grow, of trees whose fruit is an odd sort of lambs, and a hundred other equally remarkable phenomena, are narrated with skilful verisimilitude and still strongly hold the reader's interest, even if they no longer command belief.
But the narrative of Hephaestus binding Here his mother, or how on another occasion Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and all the battles of the gods in Homer--these tales must not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not.
She is so pretty, clever, and so kind Oh, did she know what's hidden in my mind-- A tale of old.
Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips
The Tale consists simply in the narration of a story either founded on facts, or created solely by the imagination, and not necessarily associated with the teaching of any moral lesson.
I may venture to assert the same of every aspect of the story, while I confess that the particular typhoon of the tale was not a typhoon of my actual experience.
Pickwick, the president, read the paper, which was filled with original tales, poetry, local news, funny advertisements, and hints, in which they good-naturedly reminded each other of their faults and short comings.
All day long, to the ear of the spirit, there was in this little library a sound of harping and singing and the telling of tales,--songs and tales of a world that never was, yet shall ever be.