Definition and Examples of Feghoots

A Shaggy Dog Story

A shaggy dog

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A feghoot is a narrative (usually an anecdote or short story) that concludes with an elaborate pun. Also called a shaggy dog story.

The term feghoot is derived from Ferdinand Feghoot, the title character in a series of science fiction stories by Reginald Bretnor (1911-1992), who wrote under the anagrammatic pen name Grendel Briarton.


"A Feghoot is supposed to make you moan..." "Feghoots aren't the most useful form of pun: but they can help you end a story—a big problem for many of us. We tell a great anecdote to our friends, get some laughs, and things are going well until we realize we have no clue how to bring the thing to a close. What do you do? Give it a moral? An alternative, the Feghoot ending, summarizes your story in a way that makes people laugh—or even more satisfying, groan appreciatively." (Jay Heinrichs, Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines That Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever. Three Rivers Press, 2011)

Feghoot and the Courts

"The planet of Lockmania, inhabited though it was by intelligent beings that looked like large wombats, had adopted the American legal system, and Ferdinand Feghoot had been sent there by the Earth Confederation to study the results.
"Feghoot watched with interest as a husband and wife were brought in, charged with disturbing the peace. During a religious observation, when for twenty minutes the congregation was supposed to maintain silence, while concentrating on their sins and visualizing them as melting away, the woman had suddenly risen from her squatting position and screamed loudly. When someone rose to object, the man had pushed him forcefully.
"The judge listened solemnly, fined the woman a silver dollar and the man a twenty-dollar gold piece.
"Almost immediately afterward, seventeen men and women were brought in. They had been ringleaders of a crowd that had demonstrated for better quality meat at a supermarket. They had torn the supermarket apart and inflicted various bruises and lacerations on eight of the employees of the establishment.
"Again the judge listened solemnly and fined the seventeen a silver dollar apiece.
"Afterward, Feghoot said to the chief judge, 'I approved of your handling of the man and woman who disturbed the peace.'
"'It was a simple case,' said the judge. 'We have a legal maxim that goes, "Screech is silver, but violence is golden."'
"'In that case,' said Feghoot, 'why did you fine the group of seventeen a silver dollar apiece when they had committed far worse violence?'
"'Oh, that's another legal maxim,' said the judge. 'Every crowd has a silver fining.'"
(Isaac Asimov, "Feghoot and the Courts." Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection. HarperCollins, 1995)

Pynchon's Feghoot: Forty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

"Thomas Pynchon, in his 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow, creates a convoluted setup for a feghoot in the character of Chiclitz, who deals in furs, which are delivered to his storehouse by a group of youngsters. Chiclitz confides to his guest Marvy that he hopes one day to take these boys to Hollywood, where Cecil B. DeMille will use them as singers. Marvy points out that it's more likely that DeMille will want to use them as galley slaves in an epic film about the Greeks or Persians. Chiclitz is outraged: 'Galley slaves?... Never, by God. For DeMille, young fur-henchmen can't be rowing!*'" (Jim Bernhard, Words Gone Wild: Fun and Games for Language Lovers. Skyhorse, 2010)

* A play on the World War I expression, "Forty million Frenchmen can't be wrong."
"Note that Pynchon has fashioned an entire narrative digression about illicit trading in furs, oarsmen in boats, fur henchmen, and DeMille—all of it in order to launch this pun."
(Steven C. Weisenburger, A Gravity's Rainbow Companion. University of Georgia Press, 2006)

Homonyms in Puns

"There is a round in the...popular BBC radio panel game My Word! [1956-1990] in which scriptwriters Frank Muir and Denis Norden tell tall stories and funny anecdotes. The essence of one round revolves around a well-known saying or quotation. The participants are asked to tell a story allegedly to illustrate or 'explain' the origin of the given phrase. Inevitably the unlikely stories end in partial, homophonic puns. Frank Muir takes Samuel Pepys' 'And so to bed' and makes 'And saw Tibet' out of it. While Denis Norden transforms the proverb 'Where there's a will there's a way' into 'Where there's a whale there's a Y.'"(Richard Alexander, Aspects of Verbal Humor in English. Gunter Narr Verlag, 1997)

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Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Feghoots." ThoughtCo, Oct. 23, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, October 23). Definition and Examples of Feghoots. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Definition and Examples of Feghoots." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 28, 2022).