"Dad Joke" Has Officially Been Added to the Dictionary

Finally, a little respect.

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On Tuesday, Merriam-Webster added more than 530 new words and definitions to its ever-expanding dictionary. Some of the words, such as "vacay" (a shortening of "vacation"), "sesh" (an abbreviation for "session"), and inspo (a briefer form of "inspiration"), reflect the way in which internet slang is increasingly becoming incorporated into daily speech. But there's at least one new entry that's long overdue: "dad joke."

Merriam-Webster now officially defines the term as "a wholesome joke of the type said to be told by fathers with a punchline that is often an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny." That's pretty on the money.

The dictionary lists 1987 as the date of its first known use when The Gettysburg Times published an article called "Don't Ban the 'Dad' jokes; preserve and revere them." The term appeared on Urban Dictionary in 2003, where it was somewhat more unkindly defined as "an indescribably cheesy and/or dumb joke made by a father to his children."

Since then, the term "dad joke" has grown in popularity on the internet (especially around Father's Day), and even has its own section on Reddit.

One could speculate that the term's inclusion in Merriam-Webster's new batch of words, as well as its more endearing definition, indicates that our attitudes toward corny humor might be changing. Yes, the joke itself may be pretty terrible, but computational linguist Chi Luu has argued that it's also a father's attempt to bond with his children while acknowledging that he's totally uncool.

"Dad jokes are a kind of anti-joke," Luu wrote for JSTOR Daily in June 2019. "Like self-deprecatingly joking about a personal flaw before your bullies do, dad jokes seem to court failure, presenting themselves as deliberately bad, deliberately uncool, deliberately anti-humor. … The enjoyment perhaps is more in the telling of it, even when accompanied by a chorus of unappreciative (and inevitable) groans. For a time, the parental jokester has the floor and the kids are listening."

And it's about time dear old dad got his due in the dictionary, too.

And for more proof that these cheesy jokes are having their moment, check out Colorado Dad Goes Viral for His Hilarious Dad Jokes on Community Center Sign.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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