I came across this joke on the internet:

A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says to the bartender, 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw'

It is meant to be a "dad joke" but I don't understand it. What does it mean?


2 Answers 2


The meaning of "paw" is an animal's foot, it sounds like "pa" (an informal word for dad/father).

In cowboy movies, back in the 1940s-50s, there was always the good guy and the bad guy. The bad guy would nearly always be an outlaw, a bandit, a notorious gunfighter or a corrupt sheriff. The movie audience would know him by his black cowboy hat. The good guy, would often be a person who had suffered a wrong in the past.

At the beginning of the movie, the bad guy would burst into the saloon and announce dramatically to the patrons of said bar: I'm looking for a man named McCallister. Does anyone know where he is? Cue scrambling of tables, chairs scraping and crashing onto the ground as people fled from the inevitable gunfight.

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The pun plays on this well-known trope and on the stereotypical American drawl; the vowel in "pa" and "paw" would be drawn out, i.e. /pa:/ and /pɔ/, the latter of which is only similar to the British English pronunciation /pɔː/ but close enough so that everyone gets the joke.

  • 8
    Worth adding that the joke only works in dialects where a) ‘Pa’ is commonly used, and b) it sounds like ‘paw’. (That's certainly not the case everywhere. I didn't get the joke until I saw the explanation.)
    – gidds
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 9:15
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    @gidds at least where Pa is commonly known. I've never heard it actually used, but I've read it in books, etc., so I got it right away.
    – Cullub
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 12:49
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    @TymekWojnarowski Congrats on getting some really good answers! In the future, it's best to wait a bit longer before accepting an answer, so that you don't have to switch. It's not bad per se, but it's kinda bad form.
    – Cullub
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 12:51
  • More relevant is the other standard movie beginning: the good guy, seeking revenge, bursts into the bar and says "I'm looking for the man who shot my Pa". An example of this trope is in the book "Stuck! Learn to Love your Screenplay Again" at books.google.com/…
    – arp
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 2:53

Paw is a non-standard way of saying father, used in certain parts of usually rural areas.

But obviously a three-legged dog is missing one of his "paws", hence the joke.

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    So I didn't get that it is a reference to someone looking to avenge their father...
    – TK-421
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 8:37
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    @TymekWojnarowski I seems like it also may have been a play on "dad jokes". Generally a "dad joke" involves using forced puns (which you could say this counts). In this case though, calling it a dad joke was itself a type of dad joke, because not only was the joke a forced pun; but the forced pun was in reference to dads. I think calling it a "dad joke" might have been part of the joke in this case.
    – JMac
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 17:49
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    Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You shot my paw. Prepare to die. Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 19:40
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    @StephenM.Webb - that's ruffly right. The OP was barking - up the wrong tree.This could lead to other puns. Life's a bitch sometimes...
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 10:13
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    @Tim: C'mere. Right here. Now stay still. THWACK! THWACK THWACK THWACK THWACK THWACK! THWACK! That is all, carry on.
    – Martha
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:14

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