The term originated with a long running series of short science fiction pieces that appeared under the collective title "Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot", published in various magazines over several decades. They were written by Reginald Bretnor under the anagrammatic pseudonym of Grendel Briarton. The usual formulae the stories followed were for the title character to solve a problem bedeviling some manner of being or extricate himself from a dangerous situation. The events could take place all over the galaxy and in various historical periods on Earth and elsewhere. In his adventures, Feghoot worked for the Society for the Aesthetic Re-Arrangement of History and traveled via a device that had no name but was typographically represented as the ")(". The pieces were usually only a few paragraphs long, and always ended with a deliberately terrible pun that was often based on a well-known title or catch-phrase.
"Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot" was originally published in the magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1956 to 1973. (In 1973, the magazine ran a contest soliciting readers' Feghoots as entries.) The series also appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction's sister magazine Venture Science Fiction Magazine, and later in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, and other publications. The individual pieces were identified by Roman numerals rather than titles. The stories have been collected in several editions, each an expanded version of the previous, the most recent being The Collected Feghoot from Pulphouse Publishing.
Many of the ideas and puns for Bretnor's stories were contributed by others, including F. M. Busby and E. Nelson Bridwell. Other authors have published Feghoots written on their own, including Isaac Asimov (who wrote a story that ended "A niche in time saves Stein") and John Brunner. There have been numerous fan-produced stories as well.
In 1962, Amazing Stories published "Through Time and Space with Benedict Breadfruit" by Grandall Barretton (Randall Garrett), which all ended in a pun on the name of a famous SF writer. One example of a Feghoot is the "Forty million Frenchmen" gag ("For DeMille, young fur-henchmen...") on page 559 of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.