tale


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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

tall tale

A greatly exaggerated or particularly imaginative story or account of something, such that it is difficult to believe. My uncle has always been fond of telling tall tales about his time overseas. I used to believe him when I was a kid, but now I've learned to just laugh along.
See also: tale, tall

live to tell the tale

To suffer through a harrowing, frightening, or dangerous situation and still be alive afterwards. (Often used hyperbolically or humorously.) Don't worry, the drop might be a bit scary, but we'll make sure you live to tell the tale. I had to spend the holidays with my in-laws, but I lived to tell the tale!
See also: live, tale, tell

tell tales

To share secrets, often knowing that doing so will cause problems for someone else. Here's a tip: don't tell tales about your co-workers if you want to have any friends here.
See also: tales, tell

tell its own story

To clearly demonstrate or indicate the truth about what happened. The police aren't saying what the cause of death is yet, but the smoldering car told its own story. You can pretend to be happy all you like, but the sadness in your eyes tells its own story.
See also: own, story, tell

tell its own tale

To clearly demonstrate or indicate the truth about what happened. The police aren't saying what the cause of death is yet, but the smoldering car told its own tale. You can pretend to be happy all you like, but the sadness in your eyes tells its own tale.
See also: own, tale, tell

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

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, thereby

live to tell the tale

If someone lives to tell the tale, they survive a dangerous or frightening experience. Michael Sproule was attacked by a shark. He lived to tell the tale but had to have emergency surgery for serious cuts to his hands and legs. At 20 miles per hour a pedestrian could escape death but at 40 miles per hour the chances of living to tell the tale are small.
See also: live, tale, tell

tell the tale

If something tells the tale about a particular situation, it shows the truth about it. Had he been fired from all of those jobs, or had he quit? I went through the papers again, looking for references that might tell the tale. Note: You can also say that something tells its own tale. A full 60 minutes without a point is a statistic that tells its own tale. Note: People also use the much more frequent adjective tell-tale to mean the same thing. They wanted to surprise the man and not give him time to hide any tell-tale evidence. In every room are tell-tale signs of a once better life.
See also: tale, tell

tell tales

If someone tells tales, they tell someone in authority about something bad or wrong that someone else has done. She had no right to tell tales to his mother! They try to get convicted criminals to tell tales on their mates in return for cuts in their own sentences. Note: This expression is used to show disapproval.
See also: tales, tell

a tall tale

BRITISH, AMERICAN or

a tall story

BRITISH
COMMON A tall tale or a tall story is a very exciting or extreme event that someone tells you about but that you think is probably not true. He was very convincing, and some of his college chums believed his tall tales. `She told my guests a tall story about our relationship,' he said. `She claimed we'd been in love three years.' Note: `Tall' used to be used to describe language that was considered extremely formal or exaggerated.
See also: tale, tall

an old wives' tale

COMMON An old wives' tale is a belief that a lot of people have that is based on traditional ideas, often ones which have been proved to be incorrect. My mother used to tell me to feed a cold and starve a fever. Is it just an old wives' tale? It's not just an old wives' tale, you know, that full moons and madness go together.
See also: old, tale

live to tell the tale

survive a dangerous experience and be able to tell others about it.
See also: live, tale, tell

an old wives' tale

a widely held traditional belief that is now thought to be unscientific or incorrect.
The phrase (and its earlier variant old wives' fable ) is recorded from the early 16th century, with the earliest example being from Tyndale's translation of the Bible.
See also: old, tale

thereby hangs (or herein (or therein) lies) a tale

used to indicate that there is more to be said about something.
1948 Christopher Bush The Case of the Second Chance He and Manfrey were Brutus and Cassius respectively in that historic show at the Coliseum and thereby hangs a tale, or rather a piece of scandal.
1998 Spectator Now it has decided to fight back and clear its name. And herein lies a tale, however ludicrous.
See also: hang, lie, tale, thereby

tell tales (out of school)

gossip about or reveal another person's secrets, wrong-doings, or faults.
As telling tales to school authorities is a terrible offence in the eyes of schoolchildren, this expression is often used in the context of declining to supply information or gossip.
1991 Mark Tully No Full Stops in India Indira trusted me throughout her life, and just because she's dead it's not right that I should break that trust and tell tales about her.
See also: tales, tell

live to tell the ˈtale

(informal, often humorous) survive a terrible experience: Only one man out of fifteen lived to tell the tale.It will be a difficult experience, but I expect you’ll live to tell the tale!
See also: live, tale, tell

an old ˈwives’ tale

(disapproving) an old idea or belief that has proved not to be scientific: When you’re expecting a baby, people tell you all sorts of old wives’ tales.The belief that make-up ruins your skin is just an old wives’ tale.
See also: old, tale

spin (somebody) a ˈyarn/ˈtale

tell somebody a story, usually a long one, which is often not true: She came an hour late and spun him a yarn about her car breaking down.Sailors used to spin yarns (= long threads) to make ropes. They were also famous for telling unlikely stories of their adventures, which is perhaps the origin of the idiom.
See also: spin, tale, yarn

tell its ˈown tale/story

explain or show something, without the need of any more explanations or comment: The burned buildings and broken glass in the streets tell their own story.
See also: own, story, tale, tell

tell the same tale/story (of something)

show the same thing: The faces of these children tell the same tale of hunger and misery.
See also: same, story, tale, tell

tell a ˈdifferent, aˈnother, etc. tale/story

give some information that is different from what you expect or have been told: She sounded very calm, but her face told a different story.
See also: story, tale, tell

tell ˈtales (about somebody/something)

(British English) tell somebody, especially somebody in authority, that another person has done something wrong: How did the boss know that I was late for work this morning? I think somebody’s been telling tales about me.
See also: tales, tell

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

verb
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.