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Of course, stereotypes are a bad thing in general. Even those based on some kind of truth usually fail miserably when applied to a large group of people.

For some reason, the stereotype applied to Polish people tends to deal with their supposed lack of intelligence. This is obviously untrue, however it does make for some entertaining jokes. However, the Polish contributions to the world in intellectual fields should not be overlooked. Here are two examples of outstanding Poles that I can think of off the top of my head.

  • Nikolai Copernicus - Copernicus was the first to actually prove that the Earth was not the center of our universe. This was a great breakthrough in astronomy, although it did greatly upset the Catholic Church.
  • Marian Rejewski - This man actually quite possibly saved the entire of Western Civilization from a man by the name of Adolf Hitler. Rejewski was the man who cracked the original Enigma cipher, which almost everyone thought was impossible. "But I though Alan Turing did that!", right? Turing cracked the modified Enigma cipher, using techniques largely based upon Rejewski's work. This is not to detract from Turing's own work. I think that Alan Turing is one of the most signifigant and brilliant minds of the twentieth century.

And yes, to answer your question, I am of Polish descent and made a vow upon my grandfather's deathbed to defend the honor and dignity of the Polish people. Okay, so that last sentence wasn't very true. In fact, my grandfather is still alive. But I am of mostly Polish descent.
The reason for Polish jokes is really very simple. First, Poland. has few natural geographic barriers which make it difficult to defend, and those it has are far behind the Polish border. Poland is located on the Northern European plain between Russia and Germany, which places it on the most natural invasion route between Western Europe and the east. Caught between ambitious powers with little geographic protection Poland is fairly easily, and often, conquered.

Second, until the Holocaust Poland had the highest Jewish population in Europe. The combination of anti-semitism and an almost indefensible, and thus oft occupied, country made the Poles a natural butt for jokes. Add the usual cultural differences of new immigrants and you have reality enough to support these jokes.

That said, a number of the Polish Americans take those jokes philosophically and often tell them themselves under the theory that the best defense is a good offense.

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