Anecdote vs joke

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KsSp

Senior Member
Russian (Moscow dialect) - Russia
Hello.
In Russian, an anecdote is a short story, always fictional and funny. It is told to amuse the listener.
As far as I know, in English 'an anecdote' denotes 'a short story based on your personal experience' (Longman Dictionary) or 'a short usually amusing account of an incident, esp a personal or biographical one ' (Collins). I've always thought that these are quite different (and that's what they told us at the university), and Russian 'anecdote' is actually English 'joke'. But recently I've seen several examples in which English 'anecdote' was used with the Russian meaning of 'a folklore fictional amusing story'.
So, the question is, can English 'anecdote' have this connotation? What does it actually mean?
Thank you!
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    An anecdote is a short story that is amusing or interesting (not necessarily funny). It's usually about something that actually happened so it's not folklore and usually not fictional (though it might be exaggerated or altered).
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The Longman and Collins definitions you quote sound accurate to me.

    But recently I've seen several examples in which English 'anecdote' was used with the Russian meaning of 'a folklore fictional amusing story'.
    Can you give us an example or two of what you mean here, and tell us where you saw them.
     

    Dryan

    Senior Member
    English - Northeastern U.S.
    In English, an anecdote is supposed to be assumed to be a true account of an event but I can see it being extrapolated out to simply mean an interesting story in the right context.

    I might explore the adjective anecdotal which is the most common form I am used to seeing.
    Generally speaking, it's an account that someone wants you to accept as true but only based on their story with no real evidence.
     

    KsSp

    Senior Member
    Russian (Moscow dialect) - Russia
    Thank you, Myridon, heypresto and Dryan!
    heypresto, one of the things that were a little confusing is a note in Wikipedia, where they say that 'Anecdotes may be real or fictional'. This 'fictional' led me to doubt that there is a significant difference.
    Thank you again for your help.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    A "folklore amusing fictional story" could be a fable or tall tale in English, rather than a joke or an anecdote.

    A joke is something verbal designed to be funny or make people laugh. Jokes can have a story aspect but only when the story is considered to set up the funny part of the joke, which is called a punch line. If the story is meant to be funny all the way through, "joke" probably isn't the right word for it.

    If it's true or told as-if-true, it might be called an anecdote in English. If it's not true, it might be a fable (if it has a teaching aspect where the listener is meant to learn something or an analogy aspect where it's meant to illustrate some principle) or a tall tale (if the humor is of the form of exaggeration and unbelievability and obvious falseness yet told sincerely). Or it might just be a funny story.

    Different cultures have different genres, and I don't think there's necessarily a tradition of a single word for the exact set of things that you'd call "anecdote" in Russian.
     

    KsSp

    Senior Member
    Russian (Moscow dialect) - Russia
    Thank you, Truffula! Your answer is comprehensive and covers all the aspects of this issue, so it would make a great entry in some dictionary :)
     
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