Polish Jokes Still Okay

At least in New Yorker cartoons. Because, as explained here, “the tacit assumption … is that the child is not of Polish origin.”



Actually, when I saw it in the magazine, I thought it might be a joke about black names, something you guys know quite a bit about.

This ridiculous dust-up reminds me of the scene in "Pulp Fiction" when the sexy cab driver asks the Bruce Willis character what his name, Butch, means. "This is America, sweetheart," he replies (or something like that). "Names don't mean s--t here."


I remember Polish jokes in grade school. They seemed to faze out along with other ethnic and racial jokes.
I remember the first time I saw my friend Ziggy's name printed out fully. I though someone had misplaced their fingers on the home keys of the typewriter.


How many Americans (outside the Polish community) know that Zbigniew is a Polish name?


"I remember Polish jokes in grade school. They seemed to fade out along with other ethnic and racial jokes."

Polish jokes were just about the last ethnic jokes to remain acceptable. They didn't become completely taboo until maybe 10 or 15 years ago, well after black and Hispanic jokes had been forbidden.


I grew up in the Chicago suburbs in the late 60s and early 70s. I am not of Polish ancestry. In my school, if you picked up a penny, you were a Polack. If you wore white socks, you were a Polack. So until I was nine or ten, I thought anybody could be a Polack.

I don't know where these memes came from but I mentioned this to someone else who grew up near Chicago and he said the same was true in his school: white socks means Polack.

The people I knew who knew the most Polish jokes were either of Polish ancestry or German ancestry. (Between the two that may be a majority of the Chicago-area population.) There is a German-Polish thing that has gone on for at least a century and it's still very active in these jokes. I don't think Polish jokes are as common in areas other than Chicago (or East Germany, or Poland) -- anyone have any statistics here?

I don't find the cartoon particularly funny. Maybe I don't know enough Polish. What does "Zbigniew" actually mean, in Polish?



"Next time, you can leave the cookie."


"Zbigniew" has no special meaning in Polish. It's just an old Slavic name.
Looking at the word's etymology it means "one that got rid of anger", but most Polish people never realise that.
And the joke itself is quite hard to understand for Polish people, as the name is perfectly normal (quite popular in Poland). Moreover, if you're drunk, it's very hard to pronounce it...


Actually, I would think it might be easier to pronounce it while drunk (or at least you wouldn't care as much). I think the joke would be the fact that you'd have to be drunk to needlessly inflict the misery of a Polish name on your child. Other fun names: Katarzyna or Malgorzata.


(Just in case anyone gets mad, let me mention that I'm Polish and know what it's like to have to teach people my name every day.)


though not famous, my name -'ajinkya'- is known through marathi and hindi literary use. Still, few non marathi ppl get it right.. in school,we had a sweet old parsi lady teaching us English.. she knew me for 5 years.. but always pronounced my name in variously wierd ways - 'ajinkaya', 'ajenkeya', aejinkey..and so on.
then one south indian ma'am, called me 'ajnikay'.

p.s. pronouce after me .. a-jin (jin n tonic)-ky(hmm.. nothign english rhymes with it.. ok ...just mix the sound of ka and ya ..its really not that difficult :p)


does this artist have abundant, in-ehaustible supply of charcoal pencils, to use it sooo generously.. or is that meant to signigy artistic confident insouciance.

Jun Okumura

I think this cartoon works (if not spectacularly) because New Yorker readers:

a) think of the Polish joke genre as a cliche for ethnic jokes in general;
b) are above (at least in their minds) the stereotype of the dumb Pole; and
c) associate the name with Zbigniew Brzezinsky, a Polish-American whose intelligence no one questions (and also speaks with a thick Polish accent, making him immediately identifiable as the Polish (and Democratic) equivalent of Henry Kissinger).

Try Seamus. It just isn't funny, though, as an wthnic stereotype, the alcoholic allusion should work better. I can also think of combinations of specific ethnic groups and alcohol beverages that would be considered insulting.

This joke reveals in a roundabout way how different ethnic groups in America are associated with certain characteristics and how such views change over time, as well as where the New Yorker positions itself with its readership.


Innocent Bystander

This is the part I love:

"The heart of the joke is the difficulty in saying the name; there's no ethnic slur," he said, but when asked if the cartoon would have been published if it had featured an Asian or African name, Remnick responded, "I don't know."

Yeeeaaaaahhhhhh... By "I don't know" he means, "Not a chance in hell." Let's just SEE them run that cartoon with "Lashanataniq'ua" or somesuch as the punchline.

I think what this REALLY shows is how desperately behind the times the magazine is. I think the only reason this isn't more offensive is how, for much of the public, Pole jokes don't even register any more.

Bruce Hayden

What is interesting to me is that the sterotypes that we had of the Polish back when polack jokes were acceptable haven't, for the most part, worked out, as a lot of Poles came over here after liberation from Communism. For example, some of the best looking, most stylish, women I know are Polish.

My guess is that the above poster was correct, that Polack jokes were really a result of German/Polish rivalries going back hundreds of years. And the German immigrants got here first and were a lot more numerous, so could set the terms of the debate.


Once when Steve Allen was guest hosting for Dick Cavett, his guest was Gil Grabowski of the Polish American Anti Defamation League. Gil came onstage wearing white socks w/ brown penny loafers. He told about how he wants the nasty polack jokes stopped. he read several examples of offensive Polish jokes & got angry when the audience laughed at each 1. Allen assured they were laughing at the jokes and when he tried changing a polack joke to "How many GERMANS duz it take to paint a house?" a bandmember replied "1 German to hold the paintbrush ... and 99 Polacks to move the house!" The audience roared with laughter and Gil walked off the set. He later returned & Allen expalined that Gil Grabowski was really comedian Bob Einstein & apologized to any Polish viewers who may've been offended. The next day page 3 of the Chicago SunTimes had an article telling how the switchboard @ Channel 7 (Chicago's ABC affiliate) lit up like a Xmas tree with calls from angry Chicago area Poles.



Hi, everybody!
I was born in Brazil but I'm from Polish ancestry. My parents emigrate from Europe after WWII. The best joke I know is from a guy seated in a stool at the optometrist making an eye exam. The physician asks him to read the board with the shuffled letters:
- Can you read what is written in the third line?
And the guy answers:
- Of course I can! And I know this guy also! He's a close friend!


Following up on Bruce Hayden's comment about Polish women, before the nazi and communist catastrophes Poles in general and Polish women in particular were known--at least in Europe--for their sophistication and elegance. Guy De Maupassant, for example, wrote of "the proverbial charm and wit of the Polish woman." It is a baffling puzzle to discover Americans think of Poles as buffoons.


Ethnic jokes just pathetic – so the Americans do not drink, no, they rather prefer to get stoned… Just open some books, to discover that the history is showing us rather a positive picture about Poland and their individuals capable to offer their life for the RIGHT thing – Mikolaj Kopernik (Lat. Nicolaus Copernicus), the pope Jan Pawel II (Lat. Ioannes Paulus II),, Lech Walesa … if we would see the word not just based on our origin and our society would be a bit more open minded – we would probably realise that whatever your name is Zbigniew, John, Thomas, Zoja – there is much more behind it a HUMAN BEING


Origin of Polish "jokes"

Origin of Polish “jokes” came from Nazi German propaganda that was then pushed by Soviet communist sympathizers in Hollywood.

The racist stereotype that Poles are intellectually inferior or have subhuman intelligence came from Nazi German propaganda and Soviet propaganda.

For example, the MYTH that Polish horses were used to attack German tanks in WWII was total Nazi German propaganda that the Nazi Germans repeated over and over until it took a life of its own using the BIG LIE technique.

The Soviet Communists saw the value of this myth and the racist notion that Polish people have subhuman intelligence, so they had their Left-Wing sympathizers in Hollywood push it using Anti-Polish Television and Movie imagery to the American people.

The image of Polish people having subhuman intelligence was useful to the Soviet Communists, since then, people would not mind too much if Poland is occupied by the Soviet Union if Poles are portrayed as having a Slavic culture that is inferior and less then human.

Nazi German hatred of Polish people:

As for the German Nazis (and even the Soviets) they then killed off the educated class of Poland first to make their racist stereotype of Poles a reality.

Polish "jokes" were in Hitler's two speeches after he invaded Poland.

Hitler ridiculed Poles in his Sept. 19, 1939 speech in Danzig (today called Gdansk) and in his Berlin speech in Oct. 6, 1939 with these hate-through-humor anti-Polish “jokes” and references.

Ironically, Left-wing Hollywood and the TV Networks (like NBC-TV) pushed these racist Polish “jokes” even though they claimed to hate Nazis. Hollywood and NBC-TV evidently hate Nazi propaganda but not when its applied to Poles. Hollywood and Network-TV (NBC) have a deep hatred for Anti-communist, Pro-American, Pro-Catholic Poland.

The recent movie “Katyn” shows the German Nazis and Soviets killing the educated Polish class in Poland in order to make Poland “intellectually inferior” and easier to rule. This was during the time Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were collaborating with each other to destroy Poland as per their Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to destroy Poland together.

Polish jokes did not predate the 20th Century since it was introduced in America by left-wing bigots in Hollywood and TV networks like NBC-TV in the late 1960's and 1970's with anti-Polish “shows” such as “Laugh In”

Many Polish Americans who lived before this time have reported that they never heard these racist jokes until AFTER they were introduced by Left-Wing networks like NBC-TV in conjunction with Hollywood. NBC-TV launched Polish-bashing shows such as “Laugh In” which ridiculed Polish people constantly. In addition late night bigots were encouraged to bash Poles with “jokes” that portrayed the Polish people as having subhuman intelligence. Therefore the power of Television and motion pictures was used to demean Polish people with repetitive big lie type propaganda.

Anti-Polish movies such as “The End” were some of the earliest movies meant to degrade Poles with racist humor. In addition other anti-Polish shows such as “All in the Family” were used to degrade the Polish people even though the left-wing producer claimed the ruse that the show was suppose to be “against bigotry”. “All in the family” was filled with racist anti-Polish sound bites such as “Dumb Polak” in an attempt to influence its viewers to have the same anti-Polish prejudice, that the Left-wing producer of the show (Norman Lear) had.



Why is it that no one seems to understand the simple, simple fact that language is one thing and writing words down is something completely different. Written language is simply a code and since different languages use different codes to write words down, it is rather nonsensical to try and decifer one language using the code from another language.