The Meaning of Dad Jokes

Dad jokes: love them or hate them, they’re part of our cultural heritage. The jokes aren’t necessarily funny (although some are), but the fact that they generate groans and eye rolls means that they have a certain charm. They can also be the inspiration for future generations of dad jokes – a cycle that is best illustrated by the many iterations of “Why can’t you play hide-and-seek with a leopard?”

Despite their ubiquity, most people don’t know what makes a dad joke, other than being corny and pun-based. But the joking goes beyond a simple sense of humor – researchers have found that the way fathers tease their children with these jokes is actually quite meaningful. Humor researcher Marc Hye-Knudsen published a paper this week in the British Psychological Society’s journal in which he explains that these seemingly random acts of teasing can actually do kids some good.

Hye-Knudsen explains that dad jokes work on three levels: they’re puns, they’re anti-humour (or even weaponised anti-humour) when used to annoy or embarrass their children, and they’re a form of playful teasing that helps kids learn to deal with feelings of embarrassment. In his study, he finds that these types of jokes are especially important for image-conscious and sensitive adolescents who may struggle with dealing with their feelings.

So next time your dad or father figure cracks a cheesy riddle, try not to roll your eyes too much and laugh out loud – you might just be helping him to grow up into a joking and loving man.

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