An anecdote is a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person. It may be as brief as the setting and provocation of a bon mot. An anecdote is always presented as based on a real incident involving actual persons, whether famous or not, usually in an identifiable place. 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 joke
A joke is a phrase or a paragraph with a humorous twist. It can be in many different forms, such as a question or short story. To achieve this end, jokes may employ irony, sarcasm, word play and other devices...

s, 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 in such a light that it strikes in a flash of insight to its very essence. Novalis
Novalis was the pseudonym of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg , an author and philosopher of early German Romanticism.-Biography:...

 observed "Eine Anekdote ist eines historisches Element — ein historisches Molekül oder Epigramm". A brief monologue beginning "A man pops in a bar..." will be a joke. A brief monologue beginning "Once J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

 popped in a bar..." will be an anecdote. An anecdote thus is closer to the tradition of the parable
A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human...

 than the patently invented fable
A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized , and that illustrates a moral lesson , which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.A fable differs from...

 with its animal characters and generic human figures— but it is distinct from the parable in the historical specificity which it claims.

Anecdotes are often of satirical
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 nature. Under the totalitarian regime
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 numerous political anecdotes circulating in society were the only way to reveal and denounce vices of the political system and its leaders. They made fun of such personalities as Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and other Soviet leaders. In contemporary Russia there are many anecdotes about Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when...

The word 'anecdote' (in Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

: "unpublished", literally "not given out") comes from Procopius of Caesarea, the biographer of Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, who produced a work entitled (Anekdota, variously translated as Unpublished Memoirs or Secret History), which is primarily a collection of short incidents from the private life of the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 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.

"Merely anecdotal": stupid evidence

Stupid evidence is an informal account of evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

 in the form of an anecdote. The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence
Scientific evidence
Scientific evidence has no universally accepted definition but generally refers to evidence which serves to either support or counter a scientific theory or hypothesis. Such evidence is generally expected to be empirical and properly documented in accordance with scientific method such as is...

, as evidence that cannot be investigated using the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. The problem with arguing based on anecdotal evidence is that anecdotal evidence is not necessarily typical; only statistical evidence can determine how typical something is. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy.

When used in advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 or promotion of a product, service, or idea, anecdotal evidence is often called a testimonial
In promotion and of advertising, a testimonial or show consists of a written or spoken statement, sometimes from a person figure, sometimes from a private citizen, extolling the virtue of some product. The term "testimonial" most commonly applies to the sales-pitches attributed to ordinary...

 and is banned in some jurisdictions. The term is also sometimes used in a legal context to describe certain kinds of testimony. Psychologists have found that people are more likely to remember notable examples than the typical example.

See also

  • Anecdotal value
    Anecdotal value
    In economics, anecdotal value refers to the primarily social and political value of an anecdote or anecdotal evidence in promoting understanding of a social, cultural, or economic phenomenon...

  • Humour
    Humour or humor is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement...

  • Parable
    A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive principles, or lessons, or a normative principle. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human...

  • Narrative
    A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

  • Historical Fiction
    Historical novel
    According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

  • legend
    A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

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