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Many a truth is told in jest

Posted by ESC on July 22, 2006

In Reply to: Many a truth is told in jest posted by Bob on July 22, 2006

: : "Many a truth is told in jest."

: : Or the haughtier version of same---"Full many a truth is oft told in jest."

: : I was always under the impression that it was somewhere in the writings of Shakespeare, but if that is the case Google is unaware of it. I know it's not in the Bible (at least not the KJV) and I also submitted it to the search bar at this site, but no luck. I thought it was a much more common a phrase than it apparently is, so hopefully someone here can shed some light on it's origin. One of the people referencing it in a post prefaced it with "As the Brits say..." so since this site originated there, my hopes are high.

: : BTW----congratulations to whomever started this site. It's great. As a lifelong verbivore, I am so delighted to have stumbled upon it. I will be doing a lot of reading in the archives. :)

: I assumed it was a common phrase, but as "many a truth is said in jest" since I've been hearing it (and saying it) that way all my live. Google verifies that "said" beats "told" ... but both are relatively small numbers, 270 to 30. Hmmm. Then I googled "man a truth" and got up to 10,000 hits, with some interesting variations: "many a truth in jest," "...spoken," et al. No clue as to origin yet.

From the (cough) archives:

MANY A TRUE WORD IS SPOKEN IN JEST - "Some truths, too painful or too likely to provoke, can be spoken only when the listener has been disarmed by laughter. A proverbial truth known for centuries, this notion was apparently first recorded by Chaucer with the line, 'A man may seye full sooth (truth) in game and pley,' from 'Canterbury Tales' (c. 1387). In 'King Lear' , William Shakespeare wrote, 'Jesters do oft prove prophets,' and some years later, essentially the modern version was rendered in the 'Roxburghe Ballad' (c. 1665): Many a true word hath been spoken in jest.." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).