Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is This a (Polish) Joke?

Seems like this little cartoon in the New Yorker is causing quite a stir among the Polish community in Gotham City and elsewhere. The magazine editor's somewhat shaky explanation is that "the heart of the joke is the difficulty in saying the name." In this vain, my parents must have been on drugs when they named me Krzysztof, forgetting to put a few extra vowels in there.

So is this a Polish joke? Is this suggesting that Poles like to hit the bottle too often? I have mixed feelings on this one.

Perhaps we do get a little thin-skinned when it comes to the images portrayed in influential media outlets, such as the venerable New Yorker. But even if it wasn't meant to slight Poles, it's not doing us any favors. And these things do stick, especially considering the long and nasty list of Polish jokes preceding them.

On the other hand, maybe we should also be known for taking a joke or two and just chill out? What do you think?


beatroot said...

My mum is from Belfast and every St Patrick’s Day her dad sent over fresh shamrock, which I was forced to wear in my blazer lapel to school. I hated it – not because I didn’t like being associated with Irishness, but because all English kids let me have it.

“Why are you wearing watercress in ya lapel?”, was the nicest thing they said, “terrorist” (this being the time of lots of IRA activity) was more representative. It got bad sometimes and being called ‘Mick” was a way of life for a few years.

So I ended up throwing away the shamrock before I got to school.

And they told lots of Irish jokes of course, the exact same ones as the Polak jokes. But I don’t remember feeling ‘harmed’ by it. Not the jokes. Sometimes I would think they were funny!

So no, the jokes can’t hurt us. And if that is as bad as it gets, no problem.

Chris Borowski said...

Thanks, Mr. Beat-nik!

I guess this particular joke isn't too funny, anyway.

I, too, have some personal experiences related to this stuff. I was 12 when I came to the U.S., with hardly any knowledge of English. So, when some kids pointed at me in the hall and called me a "Pollack" I thought it was a pleasant surprise that they knew at least one Polish word.

Not too long after I learned of the derogatory nature of the word. There were plenty of fights that followed the next utterances of that word in my school.

So the Polish jokes did hurt me, at least when I was just trying to fit in as a teenager. But believe me, the Pollack jokes also hurt a few few of the kids who told them around me.

Now I take a slightly different attitude and can only take comfort in the the ignorance of the joke tellers.

Anyway, I hope you'll wear your shamrock in Warsaw, with St. Patty's just around the corner.

Dusty said...

What's funny is The New Yorker has to explain it and it's still not funny. That's about the oldest joke in Gotham but it is always funny.

The funnier part is that The New Yorker seems clueless about where the lack of vowels is common. It's the last name, not the first name, that is vowel challenged and, as such, are hard to pronounce.

I wouldn't be surprised if the upper crust this mag is geared towards were left scratching their heads, too. Every last one of them can pronounce Zbigniew as well as or better than Bob, since they have been doing it since the Carter Administration, at least.

So look at it this way, it's another good joke about The New Yorker. Write is down. Remember it. It's a good "The New Yorker" joke for Poles to tell. And they won't have trouble pronouncing the name. Hahaha.

james wilson said...

The most popular form of joke in Poland to this day is about an ethnic group that the Poles enthusialtically helped make extinct in Poland. And they were happy to do it drunk or sober, so boo-hoo on your uncertain sensibilities.

beatroot said...

Did that last comment stink as much as I think it did?

Chris Borowski said...

I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say, James. Which one of us is not sober?

Bringing antisemitism into the conversation is ridiculous.

And when was the last time you were in Poland to make such wide sweeping "observations"? They are completely unrelated and downright insulting.

Vadim Makarenko said...

You know, this cartoon is tasteless. There's nothing funny about it, because it assumes that funny is the name itself. It's rather dumb taste of humor to my mind. I don't know why New Yorker published it, maybe they had a shortage of cartoons last week? According to me they made fools of themselves :-)

Chris Dmowski said...

Hey my middle name is Zbigniew!