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Old Chestnuts and Dad Jokes

Old Chestnuts and Dad Jokes

In folklore, “chestnuts” are old jokes that everyone seems to know. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase back to a play called The Broken Sword from 1816 in which one character keeps repeating a story about a cork tree, and who is interrupted by a second character who says: “Chestnut, you mean … I have heard you tell the joke twenty-seven times and I am sure it was a chestnut.” The term was in wide usage by the 1880s in the United Kingdom, and immigrants brought the phrase to the United States.

In modern America, we use the term “Dad jokes” instead of chestnuts. These little stories and riddles have been told so many times that they’ve become predictable. In fact, listeners groan instead of laugh when they hear them, because they’ve become stale from too much repetition. (Of course, you could say that they are so old, that they are funny again. Your choice!)

Here are a few of our favorites.

Old chestnuts related by the Greek sage Hierocles in the fifth century A.D.

One man was telling another man about the terrible dream he had.

“I dreamed I stepped on a nail,” he said to his friend. “The nail went right through my foot. It hurt so bad I cried out.”

“It’s your own fault, you know,” his friend replied. “You shouldn’t sleep barefoot!”


Did you hear about the man who was training his horse to live without food?

Just when he’d successfully finished its training, it died!

This old chestnut came from the early Buddhistic writings in India and China.

Two men rented a boat and went out fishing together one fine summer day. It was a great day for fishing, and they found the perfect spot, which was just brimming over with fish. They caught so many that they were determined to come back and fish in the same spot the next day.

“How are we going to find this spot again?” asked the first man as they rowed for home.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find it again,” said the second man. “I put a mark on the bottom of the boat right over the place where we were fishing.”

“Great,” said the first man enthusiastically. Then he frowned: “But how do you know we’ll get this same boat tomorrow?”

20 Dad Jokes that have been told so often they’ve become part of American Folklore. (You have been warned.)

I’m afraid the calendar’s days are numbered.

Where do pirates buy hooks? The secondhand store.

Why do Dads take a second pair of socks when they go golfing? In case they get a hole in one!

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims.

What do you call a factory that makes okay products? Satisfactory.

What did one wall say to the other? I’ll meet you at the corner.

What has more letters than the alphabet? The post office!

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

Did you get a haircut? No, I got them all cut!

People are just dying to get into this graveyard.

Why didn’t the skeleton climb the mountain? It didn’t have the guts.

What does a bee use to style its hair? A honeycomb.

Why is the math book sad? It has a lot of problems.

What kind of shoes do ninjas wear? Sneakers.

Swimming with sharks is expensive. It cost me an arm and a leg.

I once had a pencil with two erasers. It was pointless.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity that’s just impossible to put down.

How can you tell it’s a dogwood tree? From the bark.

What sound does a witch’s car make? Broooom broooom!

I like telling Dad jokes. Sometimes he laughs.

These jokes and riddles are in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed. Attribution to this website is optional, but appreciated.

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.