The Origins of Dad Jokes

Dad jokes are those one-liners that fathers all over the world can’t help but tell. They’re the eye-rolling, family-friendly, truly corny jokes that make kids laugh and everyone else groan.

They’re the puns that ask why two men ate at McDonald’s, why a duck eats at Apple stores, or how you can call someone an iWitness. They’re the wholesome, inoffensive jokes that dads can feel comfortable telling around their kids. And they’re also the jokes that have taken over social media, with an entire subreddit dedicated to them and even a real-life festival held annually in Austin, Texas.

But what defines a dad joke? And what is it that makes them so funny, despite being so lame and unfunny? In this article, we explore the origins of dad jokes, look at some of the best examples out there, and discover that — far from being annoying to listeners — dad jokes may actually be doing some good.

Humor is typically a form of play with language, which helps us unlock another layer of our vocabulary. By using the structure of a joke, we learn about the relationships between words and how certain puns work, such as how the word ‘appear’ sounds like the word ‘father’ when added together. The groans that accompany most dad jokes are just the result of this play with language and the way we understand meaning. And the reason dad jokes are so popular is that they are, at their core, a very simple form of humor that allows for a deeper understanding of how we use and perceive our language.

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