We know them. We love to hate them. Sometimes they make us chuckle. And they always make us cringe. “Dad jokes”— corny, predictable jokes that usually involve puns or wordplay — have become a recognized staple of American humor in recent years. They’re wisecracks you’d expect your dorky father to make. Here’s a classic example:
You: “What time is it?”
Dad: “Time for you to get a watch!”
Cue the eye roll.
Due to their virtual ubiquity in American English, I wanted to find out if “dad jokes” exist in other languages, as well. Or is everyone else missing out on the fun with puns?
Jokes So Bad They’re Spainful
After chatting with friends who are native Spanish speakers, I get the sense that puns are a major part of their comic lexicon. While it may not always be linked to papá, corny wordplay is certainly prevalent in Spanish. Here’s a classic one that is dad-centric:
Child, in grocery store: “Mira, papí. Soy milk.” (“Look, daddy. Soy milk.”)
Dad: “Hola, Milk. Soy papí.” (“Hello, Milk. I’m daddy.”)
In Spanish, soy is a conjugation of the verb ser (“to be”), meaning “I am.” The child was simply pointing out the store’s selection of non-dairy substitutes, but the father wouldn’t let the pun potential go untapped.
These Jokes Are Gut-Frenching
The French love bad jokes. In fact, a native speaker told me they learn many corny puns during childhood. Like this gem:
Person 1: “Quoi?” (“What?”)
Person 2: “Feur” (forming the word “coiffeur,” which means “hairdresser”)
It doesn’t make much sense to non-French speakers. Then again, it probably doesn’t make much sense to French speakers either. But, that’s the beauty of it. It’s so unfunny, it may elicit a chuckle. In French, this style of humor could be classified as “mauvaises blagues” (“bad jokes”) or “blagues pourries” (“rotten jokes”).
I L’italy Can’t Handle These Jokes
What do you call a Roman with a cold? Julius Sneezer. That one’s pretty terrible, but Italians are all about the bad jokes. They call them “freddura,” which is a pun or witticism.
Person 1: “Qual è il colmo per un idraulico?” (“What is the last straw for a plumber?”)
Person 2: “Non capire un tubo.” (“Not understanding a pipe,” which, in Italian, means not understanding anything.)
Get it? Me neither. But we’ll give it an “A” for effort.
These Jokes Will Entertain Ger-Man
Germans aren’t exactly famous for their humor, but they do have some jokes up their sleeves. They refer to stupid, corny humor as “flachwitze” (“flat jokes”) or “schenkelklopfer” (“thigh-beaters” or what we would call “knee-slappers”). Here’s an example:
Person 1: “Was macht ein Clown im Büro?” (“What does a clown do in the office?”)
Person 2: “Faxen.“ (“Fax,” but also “make trouble” or “fool around”)
Very clever. So clever a dad might even say it.
The best part of these “flachwitze,” though, is the ritual that goes along with them. Some Germans will lift their feet after telling a bad joke, with the idea being that the joke is so flat it will crawl under their feet.
The concept of American-style “dad jokes” directly linked to fathers isn’t readily apPARENT (sorry) in other languages. But, the use and begrudging acceptance of dumb, corny puns is universal. Whether you’re at a grocery store in Mexico or in the office with a German clown, a little wordplay can go a long way in bringing us all together.