Your Father's Day Nice Things Is Just Ugly Ties All The Way Down
It's Father's Day, which means it's time for Yr Dok Zoom and his son to go to brunch and check out the downtown Boise Father's Day Car Show so we can ooh and ah over the very same Corvettes 'n' Mustangs 'n' lovingly-restored classic cars that are there every year, and I will probably once again point at the '68 Beetle converted to run on electricity and say, "Oh look, a Voltswagen!" Traditions matter. (Kid Zoom is 22, so I may also/instead meet him for cocktails later like grown up human people.)
Don't worry about any deep thoughts on the Meaning of Fatherhood here -- we're just going to enjoy the goofy side of dadding, which as far as I'm concerned is the best thing I've done with my time. Especially since my role model for parenting was the unnamed Dad from "Calvin and Hobbes."
Kiddo, We Need To Talk
Parents like to talk with their babbies. We have moms and dads here, because darned if we're going to be pinned down by this problematic, gendered greeting-card holiday. First up, brought to our attention by noted political pundit Our Girlfriend, a dad and his kiddo chatting about TV. This might be the purest example of the genre, not to mention a fine example of linguistic development at work.
You may need to embiggen the volume to hear it, but remember to turn it down again, yeesh, you're so absent-minded!
Dad and son have adorable conversation youtu.be
NOW TURN THE VOLUME DOWN IMMEDIATELY SO THE NEXT ONE DOESN'T STARTLE THE CAT!
This one's cute too; it's enhanced by the sneezing pupper in the background.
Nash talking to his Daddy - 4 months old www.youtube.com
Spoiler: this one ends in tears, but only because the phone goes away. We bet the baby's fine now.
Baby Seriously Talking to Her Dad on Phone www.youtube.com
This one's good too, since neither parent really has a chance to get a word in edgewse.
Baby has an Adorable Conversation with her Daddy www.youtube.com
And we'll close with this kiddo who has mastered raspberries, and is therefore already qualified to discuss politics in the Wonkette Sekrit Chatcave:
5 month old baby has full conversation with dad! www.youtube.com
Unleash The Dad Jokes!
Instead of just reeling off dad jokes (that's our day job), we're gonna think about 'em a bit, if you don't mind. This might be the sweetest distillation of the phenomenon, from early on in Terry Pratchett's absolutely mandatory novel The Wee Free Men. Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching reflects on her family's long history on the Chalk, where they've been shepherds for generations.
Tiffany felt quite proud of this, in an odd way, because it might also be nice to be proud of the fact that your ancestors moved around a bit, too, or occasionally tried new things. But you've got to be proud of something. And for as long as she could remember, she'd heard her father, an otherwise quiet, slow man, make the Joke, the one that must have been handed down from Aching to Aching for hundreds of years.
He'd say, "Another day of work and I'm still Aching," or "I get up Aching and I go to bed Aching," or even "I'm Aching all over." They weren't particularly funny after about the third time, but she'd miss it if he didn't say at least one of them every week. They didn't have to be funny—they were father jokes. Anyway, however they were spelled, all her ancestors had been Aching to stay, not Aching to leave. [emphasis added -- Dok]
In September of last year, the Atlantic's Ashley Fetters wrote a lovely exploration of why dad jokes are a thing, even. Dad jokes are almost always puns, for instance, but not every pun is a dad joke. And oh dear Crom, dad jokes may even be significant:
Dad jokes are simultaneously beloved and maligned, deeply ingrained in the intimacies of family life and yet universal and public enough to have a hashtag. A specific tone and interpersonal dynamic converge to make a joke a dad joke—and the recent ubiquity of dad jokes might even reveal something about the states of modern fatherhood and humor.
Fetters offers this theory about where dad jokes come from, courtesy of a Twitter conversation involving her colleague McKay Coppins:
he said that it is a "combination of exhaustion and your kids laughing at anything when they're very young, which creates a perverse incentive system and endows you with false confidence." ("Then you spend the rest of your life doubling down on dad jokes," he added in an email to me later. He does, though, hope to pass the dad-joke tradition down to his own son one day.)
That rings true for University of South Carolina linguist Stanley Dubinsky, author of Understanding Language Through Humor, which I guess I have to buy now.
Dubinsky likes this theory, both as a researcher and as a parent. As kids get older and less childlike, he says, there's a sense of loss, and a nostalgia that sets in for when they were smaller. "You don't have children anymore," he says. "One way to get back to that time is to go back to the stupid old jokes they used to think were funny."
Dubinsky also acknowledges, however, that the phrase dad joke is sometimes used as a pejorative when someone makes a lame joke—and he believes there's a specific intergenerational dynamic at work when it is. "One of the things about language is that we judge the sophistication of our peers by how sophisticated they are with use of language. Your smartest friends can use deadpan sarcasm, and your smartest friends can get it when you'redeadpanning sarcasm," he says. So when someone makes a dumb or unsophisticated joke, they may be on the receiving end of some mild disapproval. Plus, it's Dubinsky's belief that every generation holds a somewhat disapproving opinion of the generation just before it. "They love their grandparents, but parents are just a chore and a pain," he adds. "So one way to disrespect your parents is to note how unsophisticated their humor is."
Also too, Fetters notes, dad jokes as a category probably have a lot to do with changing norms of masculinity. In a culture where fathers are expected to be emotionally aloof patriarchs and breadwinners, you probably wouldn't have many dad jokes -- even the informal term "Dad" might insult the dignity of the paterfamilias. Dad jokes might reflect a particularly post-WW II set of cultural assumptions, as discussed by historian E. Anthony Rotundo in American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity From the Revolution to the Modern Era.
In the latter half of the century, Rotundo writes, men began spending more time alongside their children, teaching them home and yard maintenance, coaching their youth sports, and eventually taking on more feeding and care duties as more mothers joined the workforce. And it's this more modern ideal of fatherhood, in which fathers are expected to play with their kids, keep them entertained, and bond with them emotionally, that arguably facilitates the playful, joking relationship between father and children often observed today—and, in turn, the dad joke.
Fetters adds that this analysis
has its critics. As Natasha Cabrera, the director of the Family Involvement Laboratory at the University of Maryland, points out, the stereotype of a dad as a playmate or entertainer of his kids relies on a distinctly heterosexual and middle-class vision of today's family unit; for many Americans, that just doesn't apply.
Fair enough, and golly, now we want to see some research on the dynamics of single moms joking with their kids. (Given a big enough fortune, we'd chuck everything and spend the rest of our life in grad school studying humor and/or child development.)
Needless to say, there's also culture war stuff from the right, too, since everything about gender and families is contested. The rightwing Washington Free Beacon features a story today with this finger-wagging headline: "This Father's Day, Thank Dad for His Hard Work." Wouldn't want to get too touchy-feely, after all. Nothing in there about dad jokes, because being a dad is srs bsns. We suppose somewhere in the rightosphere, somebody must have written a think piece about how the very notion of the dad joke is bad and emasculating, although to be honest, we haven't looked, because who wants to spoil a nice summer Sunday? Hell, maybe we should write it and see if we can get it published in Quillette. (Nah, see "nice summer Sunday.")
Oh, look, critters!
And now, a bunch of animals from Twitter, because it's a nice day, we're lazy, and we need to get to brunch. Shameless cuting follows.
That entire thread is adorbs.
Smol 'puter, smol cat:
Let no one claim an affinity for keyboards is exclusive to the descendants of Bast!
OK, we are in need of time with a son and some old cars, and while we're thinking of dads, let's also share love with folks whose parents weren't anything to celebrate. That's a reality too, and a reminder that making your own family, however you find it, is a good and honorable thing, amen. Hug someone or some critter you love, OK?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.