A penchant for telling Dad jokes peppered with bad puns may just be a symptom of parenthood, but studies suggest it might also signal everything from intelligence to brain damage. If there’s one common denominator among dad jokes, other than their ability to elicit eye rolls, it’s the presence of puns. Researchers agree that there’s a science to why puns, (the good, the bad, and the occasional funny) work. Turns out, puns are much more complex than the low-hanging fruit that annoyed family members take them for. In fact, this wordplay is actually ripe with logic (and humor). Fortunately, punny fathers can prove their comedy chops with these puns and explain to their family members the science behind why they’re funny.
25 of the best puns out there:
I was wondering why the ball was getting bigger. Then it hit me
I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. It’s impossible to put down!
How did the picture end up in jail? It was framed!
Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now
What do you call a bee that can’t make up its mind? A maybe
You really shouldn’t be intimidated by advanced math…it’s easy as pi!
My new girlfriend works at the zoo. I think she’s a keeper.
I couldn’t remember how to throw a boomerang but then it came back to me.
I asked a Frenchman if he played video games. He said Wii!
What should a lawyer always wear to a court? A good lawsuit!
Don’t interrupt someone working intently on a puzzle. Chances are, you’ll hear some crosswords.
What was the one thing the cross-eyed teacher couldn’t control? His pupils.
What did one blade of grass say to another about the lack of rain? I guess we’ll just have to make dew.
I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.
I was addicted to the hokey pokey… but thankfully, I turned myself around.
Just burned 2,000 calories. That’s the last time I leave brownies in the oven while I nap.
We dressed up as almonds for Halloween. Everyone thought we were nuts.
I was hoping to steal some leftovers from the party but my plans were foiled.
What kind of cats love bowling? Alley cats.
Who invented King Arthur’s round table? Sir Cumference.
Is your iPad making you sleepy? There’s a nap for that.
I lost my mood ring the other day. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
I don’t trust staircases. They’re always up to something.
I’m super friendly with 25 letters of the alphabet. I just don’t know Y.
My leaf blower doesn’t work. It just sucks!
The Science Behind What Makes Puns Funny
Puns Can Be a Sign of Intelligence
As difficult as it might be to accept that some puns aren’t stupid, researchers found that they were liked with mental and mating aptitude in a 2011 study published in the journal Intelligence. Other experts contend that puns help people communicate more economically and effectively.
“For most of Western history, puns were a sign of high intellect,” John Pollack, author of The Pun Also Rises, told The Atlantic. “They were a tool, and they remain a tool, to pack more meaning into fewer words.”
But Sometimes They’re a Sign of Brain Damage
For every 10 embarrassing dads who demand to know whether you can go to the bathroom or not, there’s one who is punning due to a frontal lobe injury. In a 2016 study, researchers followed two patients with Witzelsucht, a neuropsychiatric disease that compels people to make puns. One of the subjects reported that the disease was ruining his marriage because he couldn’t stop telling groan-worthy jokes to his wife in the middle of the night. Examples of jokes spurred by the brain disease varied from standard fare, such as “How do you cure hunger? Step away from the buffet table,” to indecipherable nonsense, such as “Went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license. They gave me an eye exam, and here is what they said: ABCDEFG, HIJKMNLOP, QRS, TUV, WXY, and Z; now I know my ABC’s, can I have my license please?”
Puns Require the Use Of Both Sides of Your Brain
While it may seem like punny people aren’t using their brains at all, it actually takes both the right and left hemispheres of the brain to tell a joke, research suggests. The left side, or the linguistic hemisphere, processes the basic language of the pun, and then the right side kicks in right after to reveal the surprise double-meaning — the punchline.
Computers Can Pun With the Best
Machine learning technology has enabled computers to join the pun game for some time now. In 2011, scientists from the University of Washington wrote a program that could add “that’s what she said” to appropriate sentences with 72 percent accuracy. One winning example: “Don’t you think these buns are a little too big for this meat?”… “That’s what she said.”
Another comparably crass study from the University of Edinburgh showed that a computer can be programmed to riff off the basic model of “I like my women (or men) like I like my coffee.” Some results were more problematic than others, such as “I like my men like I like my court … superior,” and “I like my women like I like my … camera … ready to flash.” (Come on, computers). But it’s not all bad, blush-worthy humor. Another software program called STANDUP uses computerized puns to help children with non-verbal cerebral palsy practice communication and socializing skills. Almost makes up for it.
Hate Puns? That’s Science, Too
If it’s unclear why your family hates even your best material, consider that some researchers suggest it’s because your puns waste precious time. There’s a conversation going on here, and you keep interrupting the flow of discussion with groan-worthy one-liners. “A pun sidetracks you,” Charlie Hopper writes in a McSweeney’s article about why people hate puns. “It’s your friend who won’t let you get anything done.” Another theory, put forth by Pollack in his book is that people who don’t like puns have controlling personalities. “If you have an approach to the world that is rules-based, driven by hierarchy and threatened by irreverence, then you’re not going to like puns,” he writes.
In other words, haters gonna hate. Just remember: It’s not you, it’s them. But it could also be your bad puns, and it wouldn’t hurt to get your frontal lobe checked out.