- Joe Miller
- A Joe Miller is a stale joke. If you tell your friends the jokes you heard as a youngster, they're probably Joe Millers. Poor Joe Miller. No one would like his name to serve as an eponym for a stale jest. Comedians who tell warmed over, well-known jokes are said to have taken them from Joe Miller's Joke Book.Joe Miller (1684-1738) was a popular English comic actor during the early 1700s. He performed at the Drury Lane Theater in London, but his parts were minor. Although his dialogue did not call for many jests, the audience took delight in quoting the witty remarks he made. A year after Joe Miller's death, a certain Joe Mottley, without permission from anyone, compiled a book titled Joe Miller's Jest-Book, or The Wit's Vade Mecum. The book contained only three jests ever spoken by Miller; the rest consisted of poor puns and dull witticisms. Other publishers jumped on the comic bandwagon, and soon there was a flood of joke books that bore the name Joe Miller. Readers responded the wayaudiences did to the same joke time after time: "That's a Joe Miller." The name became a synonym for any timeworn joke. Joe Miller's memory is being unfairly tarnished when his name is associated with a hackneyed jest taken from this old book. Joe, of course, never saw the book. Furthermore, Joe was unschooled; he could neither read nor write.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.