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Official records of 'dad jokes' only span 35 years, but I think they've existed for centuries

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - This 'Dad Joke Pro' cup is my favorite.I have a coffee cup that reads "Dad Joke Pro" in big pastel letters. It's one of my favorite mugs and a continual reminder of my role in the evolving relationship between me and my daughter.

You see, we each have a part to play — I tell the horribly pun-ny joke and she forces out a sigh, in the special way only a pre-teen girl can, and rolls her eyes. "Seriously, Dad?!" And if I'm really on my game that day, I'll follow it up with an encore joke, making use of the first pun while dropping another one into the delivery.

Here's a little taste: It was dinnertime (see what I did there?) and tacos were on the menu. I was asked to grate the cheese. So, in full embrace of my Dad Joke Pro moniker, I tell my young lady, "Shredded cheese sure is grate stuff."

There's always a split-second delay before she responds, but once the lightbulb clicks on, she shifts into eye-roll mode. "Really, Dad?" I shoot her a satisfied grin and feign regret. "Sorry for such a cheesy joke." — "Ugh, Dad! Why?" — "What? That was a grate joke!" — "That's it, I'm going upstairs!"

I'm not exactly sure how this dynamic developed but it was nothing premeditated. Sometime during my transition from little boy to manchild, I developed a knack for groaners. It could be learned behavior — seems my dad could dish 'em out and so could his dad. In fact, I recall my uncles popping off some pretty decent one-liners.

Perhaps it's something stored deep within that Y chromosome of ours, some innate talent for puns that generations of fathers have reinforced throughout our human history. I can't recall any mention of dad jokes from Biblical times nor have anthropologists found evidence of them on cave wall drawings, but I like to believe that dads still told them back then. And when they did, any daughter in earshot probably rolled their eyes with faux (or possibly real) indignance.

While those origins are mere speculation, I was fortunate enough to discover that the "official" history of dad jokes has been documented on Wikipedia — and apparently, the term was coined just 35 years ago by a writer for the Gettysburg Times (meaning I'm sadly not the first journalist to tackle the subject). He wrote "an impassioned defense of the genre in June 1987 under the headline 'Don't ban the 'Dad' jokes; preserve and revere them.'" The term has since garnered mention on a TV sitcom and an Australian quiz show, and just three years ago, Merriam-Webster added the term to the dictionary.

So now, the pressure is on us dads to keep this momentum going. And I'm all for it.

If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned any dad joke interactions with my son, it's because I save my best material for my daughter. I have found that girls provide the best responses to dad jokes — they give me that groan I seek. I am no scientist and have no data to back it, but I suspect it's that lack of a Y chromosome — they just don't think the same way. Puns don't materialize in their brain with the same breakneck frequency — and if they do, I suspect girls are far more likely to stifle them and avoid the inevitable groans from people who hear them. Not like us dads — we look forward to those responses.

I do tell my son a few dad jokes, and he gets them — but his response is different. He can't pretend their awful because, deep down, he is too busy admiring the craft. He is taking meticulous mental notes, learning the special art. Someday he will be a dad himself — he's gotta prepare.

And as he joins other dads-to-be, compiling "quality" material, I feel that the future of dad jokes is not only secure, but destined to reach unprecedented heights. There is ample evidence to support this view. My social media feed includes numerous fellow dads who proudly share moments when they lay a classic groaner on their kiddos. And if Facebook posts aren't enough evidence to convince you, type "dad jokes" into a Google search engine — I just did, and it took 0.54 seconds to generate 135 million results. I'm no statistician, but that seems like a lot.

Here's a few favorites from that internet search:

Plateaus are the highest form of flattery.

Have you heard about those new corduroy pillows? They're making headlines.

I don't trust stairs. They're always up to something.

Why do Norwegian submarines have bar codes painted on them? So they can scan the navy in.

Aren't they grate? I can't wait to share them with daughter.


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