Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to chestnut: American chestnut
pull (one's) chestnuts out of the fire
To do a difficult, and often dangerous, task for someone else's benefit. David really pulled my chestnuts out of the fire that time he saved me from drowning. I can't believe my car broke down on this desolate road late at night—thank you so much for pulling my chestnuts out of the fire and picking me up!
A topic, saying, or joke that has been repeated so much that it has become boring or irksome. Whether there's truth in it or not, I can't stand that old chestnut "follow your heart."
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."
an old chestnutor
a hoary old chestnutmainly BRITISH
COMMON If you describe something that is said or written as an old chestnut or a hoary old chestnut, you mean that it has been repeated so often that it is no longer interesting. Finally, how do you answer that old interview chestnut: `Why should I hire you?' The film is based on the hoary old chestnut of good twin/bad twin, separated at birth, final fatal meeting — you get the idea.
pull someone's chestnuts out of the fireor
pull the chestnuts out of the fireOLD-FASHIONED
If you pull someone's chestnuts out of the fire or pull the chestnuts out of the fire, you save someone from a very difficult situation which they have caused themselves. It's not our business, pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. The President tried to use the CIA to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Note: This expression is based on the fable of the cat and the monkey. The cat wanted to get some roast chestnuts out of the fire but did not want to burn its paws, so it persuaded the monkey to do the job instead.
an old chestnuta joke, story, or subject that has become tedious and boring as a result of its age and constant repetition.
The most likely source for this sense of chestnut is in the following exchange between two characters, Zavior and Pablo, in William Dimond 's play Broken Sword ( 1816 ): ZAVIOR…When suddenly from the thick boughs of a cork tree— PABLO. (Jumping up) A chesnut, Captain, a chesnut…Captain, this is the twenty-seventh time I have heard you relate this story, and you invariably said, a chesnut, until now.
pull someone's chestnuts out of the firesucceed in a hazardous undertaking for someone else's benefit.
This expression refers to the fable of a monkey using a cat's paw (or in some versions a dog's paw) to rake out roasting chestnuts from a fire. Cat's paw is sometimes used as a term for someone who is used by another person as a tool or stooge.
an/that old ˈchestnut(informal) a joke or story that has often been repeated and as a result is no longer amusing: ‘He told us all about the police arresting him for climbing into his own house.’ ‘Oh, no, not that old chestnut again.’
A stale joke, anecdote, or adage. This term has a specific source, the play The Broken Sword by William Dimond, first produced in 1816. The principal character, a Captain Xavier, constantly repeats the same stories, one of which involves a cork tree. Pablo, another character, interrupts, saying, “Chestnut, you mean, captain. I have heard you tell the joke twenty-seven times, and I am sure it was a chestnut.” The play has long since been forgotten, but the term survives, and has itself become an old chestnut.
pull the chestnuts out of the fire, to
To do someone else’s dirty work. This term comes from an ancient fable in which a monkey, not wishing to burn its own fingers, persuades a cat to retrieve chestnuts that had fallen into the fire (whence also cat’s paw, for being made a dupe). Recounted in numerous early collections of fables (by La Fontaine, 1678, and Sir Roger L’Estrange, 1692, among others), it was transferred to any kind of dirty work by the eighteenth century.