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"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen, atheistic to the point of fanaticism, there you have me in a nutshell.... Kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change."--letter from Sade to his wife

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A nutshell is the outer shell of a nut. Most nutshells are inedible and are removed before eating the nut meat inside.

Idiomatic usage

The expression "in a nutshell" (of a story, proof, etc.) means "in essence", metaphorically alluding to the fact that the essence of the nut - its edible part - is contained inside its shell. The expression further gave rise to the journalistic term nut graph, short for nutshell paragraph.

A likely source of the phrase may be found in Shakespeare's Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2) where the title character exclaims: "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a King of infinite space". Older uses of this have been reported, too. So it is said to have been used by Pliny the Elder. He mentioned in the encyclopedic Naturalis historia a report by Cicero saying that a handwritten version of the Ilias by Homer would have fitted in a nutshell „in uce inclusam Iliadem Homeri carmen in membrana scriptum tradit Cicero“.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nutshell" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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