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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
For a comparison of anecdote with other kinds of stories, see Myth, legend, fairy tale, and fable.

An anecdote is a short tale narrating an interesting or amusing biographical incident. Its etymology is from Ancient Greek ἀνέκδοτος (anekdotos), “‘accounts unpublished’”)

It may be as brief as the setting and provocation of a bon mot. An anecdote is always based on real life, an incident involving actual persons, whether famous or not, in real places. However, over time, modification in reuse may convert a particular anecdote to a fictional piece, one that is retold but is "too good to be true". Sometimes humorous, anecdotes are not jokes, because their primary purpose is not simply to evoke laughter, but to reveal a truth more general than the brief tale itself, or to delineate a character trait or the workings of an institution in such a light that it strikes in a flash of insight to their very essence. A brief monologue beginning "A man pops in a bar..." will be a joke. A brief monologue beginning "Once J. Edgar Hoover popped in a bar..." will be an anecdote. An anecdote thus is closer to the tradition of the parable than the patently invented fable with its animal characters and generic human figures— but it is distinct from the parable in the historical specificity which it claims. An anecdote is not a metaphor nor does it bear a moral, a necessity in both parable and fable, merely an illustrative incident that is in some way an epitome.

Note that in the context of Lithuanian, Bulgarian and Russian humor anecdote refers to any short humorous story without the need of factual or biographical origins.

The word anecdote ("unpublished", literally "not given out") comes from Procopius of Caesarea, the biographer of Justinian I, who produced a work entitled Ανεκδοτα (Anekdota, variously translated as Unpublished Memoirs or Secret History), which is primarily a collection of short incidents from the private life of the Byzantine court. Gradually, the term anecdote came to be applied to any short tale utilized to emphasize or illustrate whatever point the author wished to make.

As a rule, biographical anecdotes are considered too trivial or apocryphal to be included in a scholarly biography.

Anecdotes are typically oral and ephemeral. They are just one of the many types of stories told in organizations and the collection of anecdotes from people in an organization can be used to better understand its organizational culture (Snowden, 1999; Gabriel, 2000).

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anecdote" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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