Dad jokes, I argue, are a manifestation of a much older fatherly impulse to tease one’s children. On the surface, dad jokes are puns that are characterized by only violating a pragmatic norm and nothing else, which makes them lame and unfunny. Only violating a pragmatic norm and nothing else, however, is itself a violation of the norms of joke-telling, which makes dad jokes a type of anti-humor. Fathers (i.e., “dads”) may in turn seek to embarrass their children by purposively violating the norms of joke-telling in this way, thus weaponizing the lame pun against their children as a type of good-natured teasing. Given their personality profile, it makes sense that fathers should be particularly prone to weaponize dad jokes teasingly against their children like this, with the phenomenon bearing an illuminating resemblance to the rough-and-tumble play that fathers have engaged their children in since before the dawn of our species.
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