Anecdotes: “a funny Thing Happened…” Mrs. Cumberland

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Anecdotes: “A Funny Thing Happened…” Mrs. Cumberland

  • Objectives:
  • To write original anecdotes
  • To examine use of anecdotes in essay development


  • Very short stories, usually illustrating specific points- are useful to both writers and speakers
  • Examples:
    • The teacher who enlivens U.S. history with vignettes about noteworthy figures
    • The clergyman who uses stories to inject humor into sermons
    • The political candidate who shores up platform statements with striking anecdotes from everyday life
      • “A funny thing happened on the way…” has become a stock phrase to open an after-dinner speech

What is the meaning and validity of each adage the follows:

Pride comes before a fall

  • Meaning
  • Validity

A stitch of time saves nine

  • Meaning:
  • Validity:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

  • Meaning:
  • Validity:

Youth is wasted on the young

  • Meaning:
  • Validity

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

  • Meaning:
  • Validity:

A picture is worth a thousand words

  • Meaning:
  • Validity:

Brainstorm events in your own life that illustrate your position about what adage from previous slides

Select one event and write a short anecdote about it

Read Handout 6: Benjamin Franklin’s “The Whistle”

  • The story shows how people may want something without knowing its value. Spurred by desire rather than by reason, they may expand far more than the coveted item is worth. When they recognize their folly, they become unhappy

Brainstorm human choices that illustrate the same point as the first paragraph in “The Whistle”

  • Someone loses his job for not reporting to work; it was a beautiful day, so he went to the beach
  • An athlete wins the game by cheating
  • A gourmet pays an exorbitant price to eat at a fancy restaurant
  • A teenager spends twice as much money on a pair of jeans purchased at an upscale store than she would have spent for the same jeans at a less trendy store

Review of words

Respond to the questions from “The Whistle”

  • 2
    • Introductory anecdote becomes a parable to cover the universal tendency to give too much for too little. Franklin emphasizes this with recurring allusions to “giving too much for the whistle.”
  • 3
    • Franklin speaks as a sage who has learned wisdom from life experience. The speaker humbly cites his own folly, and his descriptions of others are empathetic and rueful. His sentences tend to be lengthy and complex, but the vocabulary is simple. He uses many concrete, people-centered examples to illustrate his main point


  • Paragraph 3: “men and women”
  • Paragraph 4: “people,” “their,” “these people”

4 continued

  • Paragraph 5: delete “his,” “poor soul”
  • Paragraph 6: “people of pleasure,” delete “his,” “mistaken humans… yourselves,,,.whistles”

4 continued

  • Paragraph 7: “those,” “Their fortunes,” “They contract… and end their careers,” :they have paid…for their whistles”
  • Paragraph 9 : “people”

Write an anecdote of 100-200 words. The anecdote should imply a central theme suggestions: - a specific incident that illustrates a friend’s outrageous sense of humor - a single experience that characterizes a major national or international event - a human interaction that demonstrates an aspect of human nature

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