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Three characters in Polish jokes
Dorota Brzozowska
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to show how tripartite jokes have developed
from ethnic jokes into jokes about professions. The attempt to answer the ques-
tion about the universal and culture specic character of those jokes will be
crucial. The introduction will present the relationships of the current topic with
the number three as a folkloric universal. Stereotypical situations prompting the
representatives of different nations to behave in a manner characteristic for them
are then described, followed by the analysis of the entwining of ethnic, political,
sexual, “logical” and other dimensions of humour in tripartite jokes.
The historical contexts and the role the closest and most relevant neighbours,
i.e. the Russians and the Germans, play in Polish culture is presented and com-
pared with the stereotypes and attitudes of other national characters present in
jokes (e.g. Czechs, Americans). With this, we aim to answer the question if and
when ethnic stereotypes are still present in contemporary jokes.
Keywords: three characters in jokes, Polish humour, targets, ethnic stereotypes,
The aim of this paper is to analyse the stereotypes present in Polish jokes
about three characters. The researched material consists of four hundred jokes
from books, booklets and the Internet. The comparison was made to show the
difference between the texts from the beginning of the 20th century and more
recent jokes. The political situation in Poland after 1989 has changed rapidly;
the subjects, forms and way of disseminating jokes have been altered as well.
The main issue that is different now from what it used to be before the
transformation of 1989 is the number of jokes dealing with topics considered as
taboo. It means e.g. more sexual humour, jokes about the clergy, and tasteless
and sick disaster jokes about death with a growing popularity of black humour.
The trend is connected with the loosening censorship and a tendency to cross
the borders between the sacred and the profane in the name of the freedom of
speech. The relatively recent possibility of publishing critical texts about politics
in the regular media – papers, radio, television, and the Internet – was one of
the reasons why political jokes (after ourishing during the period of communist
Dorota Brzozowska
times) started to go into oblivion. The joke cycles making fun of the communist
party and strictly connected with its leaders have disappeared. Presidents and
prime ministers used to be the heroes of a great number of jokes, but nowadays
the category of political humour is fuzzier. Some politicians have become the
butts of individual short-lived jokes strictly connected with current issues dis-
cussed in the media. A new type of celebrity series appeared, but they do not
make a stable group either and may be treated more as a part of fashion trends.
The fall of socialism, gained political freedom, the collapse of the Iron Cur-
tain and nally joining the European Union have caused Polish popular culture
to absorb certain trends very quickly from the formerly isolated and admired
West. New cycles of jokes borrowed mainly from America are now present and
the huge inuence of the English language can be observed. The texts seem to
be more connected with global issues and there are international subjects and
foreign words in them. Many texts circulating among Polish teenagers are in
English – as for the new generation English is a second language they start
learning preschool and used in the everyday (Internet) communication.
The difference between the literary (upper) and common (lower) styles keeps
disappearing and the democratisation/pauperisation of the language is seen in
all communicative spheres – the trend could be noticed also in jokes present
in contemporary Poland. There are many vulgar, aggressive and colloquial
words used in them; subtle, elaborate language plays are rare and situational
humour prevails.
Humour in everyday life has a new place and is present more frequently
due to its easy dissemination enabled by the popularity of new media such as
journals, tabloids, daily press, advertisements, and radio. Television and the
Internet give numerous opportunities to create, duplicate and disseminate hu-
mour. The change from a society of words to a society of pictures also has its
inuence on the form of humorous genres. Jokes take the form of pictures or
photos combined with some texts; short funny lms and comic videos are created
on an everyday basis; performances of amateur and professional cabaret groups
can be watched online and sent to friends. All of these make jokes proliferate
in many communicational spheres and in new shapes.
One of this paper’s objectives is to follow the changes of one particular group
of ethnic jokes in a more detailed way. This group of jokes is particularly impor-
tant for Polish folk tradition as Poland was a multicultural country before the
Second World War. Many different nationalities lived there and many languages
were spoken. After the War under socialism the concept of one country, one
language, and one nation was promoted. After the fall of communism in 1989,
the idea of local identity, regional dialects and pride of local community and its
culture has reappeared. The attitudes reecting ethnic changes could also be
Three characters in Polish jokes
observed in the jokes, which are full of stereotypes – a term coined from Greek
as stereós – ‘petried, hard, stable’ and týpos – ‘type, picture, form’ – seen both
on the structural and semantic levels.
On the structural level traditionally the most popular ethnic cycle is based on
“the rule of three”, which is common in many folk texts and in different cultures
(cf. Christie Davies’s works on ethnic humour: 1990, 2005, 2011). Whereas for
example in the British tradition, the heroes are an Englishman, an Irishman
and a Scotsman and the motive is quite well-known worldwide and still used1,
the famous Polish triad consists of a Pole, a Russian, and a German.
The earliest versions of the jokes from this group could be connected with
a legend about three brothers Lech, Čech (or Czech) and Rus. They are known
as the ones who founded the three Slavic nations: Lechia (Poland), Czechia
(Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia – modern Czech Republic), and Ruthenia (‘Rus’
~ modern Russia, Belarus and Ukraine). There are multiple versions of the
legend known in different countries. One of the Polish versions of the legend
says that the three brothers went hunting together, but each of them followed
a different prey and eventually they all travelled in different directions. Rus
went to the east, Čech headed to the west to settle on the mountain rising up
from the hilly Bohemian countryside, while Lech travelled north. There, while
hunting, he followed his arrow and suddenly found himself face-to-face with a
erce white eagle guarding its nest from intruders. Seeing the eagle against
the red of the setting sun, Lech took this sight as a good omen and decided to
settle there. He named his settlement Gniezno (Polish gniazdo – ‘nest’) in the
commemoration of this event and adopted the White Eagle as his coat-of-arms2.
The earliest Polish mention of Lech, Čech and Rus is found in the “Chronicle of
Greater Poland” written in 1295 in Gniezno or Poznań. In Bohemian chronicles,
Čech appears on his own or with Lech only; he is rst mentioned as Bohemus
in Cosmas’ chronicle (1125) (Wikipedia 20.05.2012).
The legend suggests the common ancestry of Poles, Czechs and Ruthenians
and illustrates the fact that as early as the 13th century, at least three different
Slavic peoples were aware of being ethnically and linguistically interrelated,
and, indeed, derived from a common root stock. The legend also attempts to
explain the etymology of their ethnonyms – Lechia, the Czech lands, and Ruś
(Wikipedia 20.05.2012).
1 The idea of three characters appears in different genres and is used also by contem-
porary authors, e.g. the rst sign of the dangerous plot in which the joke producers
try to eliminate those who could solve their mystery was the appearance of those
three characters (i.e. an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman) walking down
the street and following the main character in Anthony Horowitz’s novel “The Killing
Joke” (2004).
2 The white eagle remains a symbol of Poland to this day, and the color of the eagle and
the color of the setting sun are depicted in Poland’s ag.
Dorota Brzozowska
The neighbouring Slavs were present in Polish folk texts, especially in those
created in border areas. But in the mainstream jokes in the pre-war period the
most popular characters of the Polish ethnic jokes were Jews as important co-
participants of the social life at that time. During the Second World War, the
Allies and the Germans, and later, until the fall of communism, the Russians
became the butts of ethnic jokes. Representatives of the last two nationalities,
being the closest neighbours for centuries, appeared in classic Polish ethnic jokes
with the central traditional series of the texts about “a Pole, a Russian and a
German”. In the period of the “Cold War”, the Russians were accompanied by
the Americans, who were presented as positive characters. In the newest jokes,
the Americans have begun to take the dominant position. Either they comple-
ment the classic triad as a fourth character or replace a character of one of the
other nationalities. In the traditional Polish jokes about the three characters,
the Germans mainly take the middle position. Being the middle one, they are
the ones who are rarely strongly characterised and they are not those who are
targeted. Taking into consideration that the Pole is always the winning hero,
and the Russian is the loser, the German thus stays in the middle as an easily
replaceable ethnic character. A hierarchy of heroes in the classical Polish three
nation jokes is similar to the one present in the following example:
There was a competition in driving nails into a board using one’s head.
There were three competitors: a Pole, a Russian and a German.
The German starts rst: He hits one ... two ... three the nail has
been driven in.
The Pole is next: one ... two … stuck.
The last is the Russian:
One ... – stuck!
The results are announced:
The German is second, the Pole is rst and the Russian is disqualied for
sticking the nail in the wrong end.
(, last accessed on 2 October
In the post-war period in Poland, when the traditional character cycle prolif-
erated, jokes about some nationalities and ethnic groups started to fall into
oblivion. Some jokes about Jews were replaced by texts about Scots, and some
others, lacking the characteristic elements (e.g. the language ones), became
absorbed by the texts of general circulation. However, in the recent years, the
interest in Jewish culture has been revived, and so has Jewish jokelore to some
extent. The representatives of some other nationalities, hardly ever mentioned
in jokes earlier, have become more and more often the heroes of ethnic jokes.
Three characters in Polish jokes
When Poland joined the European Union, EU ofcers and the nations of the
EU member states began to turn up in more jokes. The interest in Asian cul-
tures, their quick economic development and visibility on European markets
caused the ethnic characters such as the Chinese and Japanese appear more
frequently in Polish humorous texts.
Internet communication and increasing mobility have allowed these jokes
to travel quickly to a global audience. Thanks to this, jokes about local com-
munities are known on a wider arena, and jokes about different nationalities
have begun to have a much wider circulation. Easy Internet access and the role
it plays especially in young people’s lives have resulted in the appearance and
spread of many new genres of humorous texts. Especially, the role of combining
visual means with funny ideas ourishes in the form of short YouTube amateur
videos, and in demotivators, which is one of the most popular methods of creat-
ing and enjoying Internet humour (cf. Baran 2012; Piekot 2012). As the means
and subjects of jokes have changed, it is interesting to look for the traces of the
traditional “rule of three” and also the reminiscences of ethnic characters that
appear in the new forms in contemporary humorous texts.
One of most prolic, new humorous genre is called a demotivator (or, alter-
natively, demotivational poster). It is a combination of a suggestive drawing or a
photo with a commenting caption. Demotivators are mostly cynic or ironic. They
started out as a parody of the motivational posters present in many (usually
American) ofces, which were supposed to motivate employees to work harder
and achieve their targets. They spread very easily and quickly as commentaries
and responses to hot media subjects.
Last year, one of the most important events for Polish mass media was the
preparation of and then participation in the European Football Championships
organised jointly by Poland and the Ukraine. EURO 2012 was interesting not
only for regular fans but also for the entire nation, who could discuss the pros
and cons of organising such a huge and expensive event. As sport events are
very often a good reason and opportunity to revitalise and strengthen national
identity, this particular competition was also good ground for the observation
of ethnic related behaviours and the revival of ethnic stereotypes3.
The rst funny (visual) comments appeared straight after it had been decided
which teams would play in which groups. Interestingly enough, the traditional
story of Slavic brotherhood was very easily recalled; it gained a new life and
dimension in numerous demotivators.
3 The relations between humour and sport are discussed to a great extend in papers of
Jan Chovanec (e.g. 2005).
Dorota Brzozowska
ish Group: Lech, Czech, Rus and Cri-
In this demotivator Group A consists
of the same four elements as in the
previous one, namely Lech, Czech,
Rus and an extra element, Zeus. But
this time the brief name of the odd
fourth one is alluding to the cultural
background and the knowledge about
The caption says: “It looks as if there is
a family-like atmosphere in our group
with Lech, Czech and Rus, but it does
not make sense to play a Greek [play
dumb] because only two will qualify”.
Figure 1. Niby w naszej grupie rodzinna at-
mosfera. It looks as if there was a family-like
atmosphere in our group (http://demotywatory.
atmosfera, last accessed on 23 May 2012).
Figure 2. Polska Grupa. Polish group (http://, last
accessed on 3 December 2011).
In another example, the caption once
again names the traditional three
characters – adding the fourth ele-
ment and making fun of the economic
situation of the named country: “Pol-
Figure 3. Grupa A. Group A (http://demoty-, last accessed on
9 June 2012).
Three characters in Polish jokes
Figure 4. Nie wierzę w numerologię. I don’t believe in
numerology (
mam-przesadow-numerologicznych, last accessed on 8
June 2012). 1612 – The Poles govern the Kremlin; 1812
– The Poles together with the Napoleon’s Army visit the
Kremlin again; 2012 – 12 June Poland v Russia football
match. I don’t believe in numerology, but I wouldn’t
mind if the tradition continued.
the inuential role of Greece in ancient times and its well-known mythological
In all the above-mentioned demotivational posters, the core element was using
the old form, pointing at the three traditional characters, alluding in a crea-
tive way to the legendary brothers. It is clearly visible when we consider the
contemporary ethnic terms: Polak, not Lech, and Rusek, not Rus. The most
creative part concerned the fourth character, which is an additional element.
Using the rule of three, the authors of the rst demotivator played with the
Polish idiom udawać Greka (‘play dumb’), or alluded to the hot subject of the
crisis in Greece, coinciding with EURO 2012 (replacing words based on similar
pronunciation). In the third example, the creative part is in evoking the myths
from ancient Greek history taught at schools.
The fourth example is slightly different, both on the structural and topical
levels. The demotivator uses two paintings and a photo of the stadium. The
rst picture by the famous 19th century Pol-
ish painter, Jan Matejko, shows the Russian
Tsar, Vasily IV Shuysky, brought by the Grand
Hetman of the Crown, Stanisław Żółkiewski,
and compelled to kneel before the Polish King,
Sigismund III Vasa, at the Sejm in Warsaw on
29 October 1611. The painting commemorates
the Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618) part
of which was a victory against the combined
Russian and Swedish forces in the battle of
Klushino and the presence of Polish troops in
the Kremlin. Żółkiewski seized Moscow and
took the Tsar Vasily Shuysky, and his broth-
ers, Ivan Shuysky and Dmitri Shuysky, captive.
The war nally ended in 1618 with the Truce of
Deulino, which granted the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth certain territorial concessions,
but not control over Russia which thus emerged
from the war with its independence unscathed.
Dorota Brzozowska
The second picture shows an oil painting by an unknown German artist
painted in 1820s and entitled “The French in Moscow, 1812 (Napoleon)”. It il-
lustrates one of the incidents connected with the French invasion of Russia in
1812, also known as the Russian Campaign in France and the Patriotic War of
1812 in Russia. The campaign began on 24 June 1812, when Napoleon’s forces
crossed the Neman River. Napoleon aimed to compel the Emperor of Russia,
Alexander I, to maintain the Continental Blockade of the United Kingdom; an
ofcial aim was to remove the threat of a Russian invasion of Poland. Napoleon
named the campaign the Second Polish War. Figures on how many men Napo-
leon took into Russia and how many eventually came out vary rather widely
but for sure Polish forces were present there. Napoleon crossed the Neman
with over 600,000 soldiers, only half of whom were from France, the others
being mainly Poles and Germans. After entering Moscow, the Grande Armée,
unhappy with military conditions and no sign of victory, began looting what
little remained in Moscow. The same evening, the rst res began to break
out in the city, spreading over the next few days. Moscow, consisting in two
thirds of wooden buildings at the time, burnt down almost completely (it was
estimated that four-fths of the city was destroyed)4. Both of these pictures
ironically pointed out a short triumph followed by a great defeat.
The strong allusions to historical facts and political, not always friendly
relations, and to the very few occasions when the Poles were the conquerors
of their bigger neighbour are constructed in the form of a three picture section
which emphasises the parallels and strengths of the power of wishful thinking
about a spectacular, even if not lasting, victory, revealing the Polish-Russian
relations in demotivators, making use of “the rule of three” on a structural level.
The traditional ethnic characters are evoked in a new type of jokes created
in a particular situation in which the typical triad was contrasted with a fourth
element. It means that there is a concept of three characters strongly present
in mentality and cultural memory – even if it is not visible on an everyday
basis, it is triggered easily and renewed in the proper circumstances. As for
the structural triad, the presence of the three demotivators combined together
is not a very common technique, but nevertheless, it does occur in some cases
and then the parallels of certain situations are underlined and the punch line
is more emphasised. Probably due to economic and visual reasons, there is the
tendency of creating demotivators in a simplied version.
Ethnic jokes, although most popular, are not the only type of jokes about
three characters. Traditionally, the representatives of different religions present
in Poland were also pictured as discussing the things in this triad convention.
It is usually a priest, a pastor and a rabbi debating different aspects of faith,
4, last accessed on 9 October
Three characters in Polish jokes
religion, customs and values, often trying to prove that their own beliefs are
better than the ones of the others:
A priest, a pastor and a rabbi travelled on a train. The priest being tactful
and the rabbi as a wise man did not start discussing sensitive subjects,
but the pastor had a long tongue and started a dispute. Then, the rabbi
said: “Mister Pastor! If the Messiah has not come yet, it means that we
the Jews are right; if he has already come, the priest is right, but you are
not right for sure.”
(Księga dowcipu [20th Century source without the date of publishing]:
Some of the jokes with those characters are also relevant nowadays, especially
the ones dealing with universal and eagerly discussed moral dilemmas and
transcendental subjects:
A priest, a pastor and a rabbi are discussing the moment when human
life starts.
Priest: “Human life starts at the moment when the ovarian cell is con-
nected with a sperm cell.”
Pastor: “Human life starts at the moment when a zygote nds its nesting
place in a uterus.”
And the rabbi responds: “Gents Human life starts at the moment when
your wife dies and your dog dies and your children move out.”
(,religii/2, last accessed on 28 September 2012)
The continuation of three-hero jokes and their ethnic character may also be
found in texts about very rich new-Russians or businessmen, who sometimes
can play the same role in the structurally similar texts:
Three rich businessmen discuss things while drinking alcohol. The rst
of them boasts:
“I have so much cash that I can buy the biggest telecom company for my
daughter’s birthday.”
The second one says:
“I am also rich and I can buy all the telecom companies at once.”
They look at their friend as he says nothing for a while and nally he
“Why are you staring at me? No way, I am not going to sell them to you …
( last accessed on 10 February 2012)
The characters in the above mentioned jokes, even if popular, usually occur
sporadically in the jokes using the sequence of three parts and at most times
do not form a cycle.
Dorota Brzozowska
Nowadays, only the cycle of a mathematician, a physicist and an IT engi-
neer can be classied as a really proliferating group of three representing the
category of three-character jokes under discussion.
An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician were given the same quan-
tity of wire netting and the order to fence with it the largest possible area.
The engineer fenced an area in the shape of a square. The physicist, as a
little more intelligent person, fenced an area in the shape of an ideal circle
and claimed that it is not possible to do it in a better way. The mathemati-
cian put up the fence carelessly, got inside and said:
“I am outside.”
(, last accessed on 2 October 2012)
In the case of the interaction between the above mentioned groups, usually a
mathematician plays a role of a wise man, though slightly disconnected from
reality. This feature goes well with the stereotype of an absent-minded scientist
living in a world of his own. A physicist is mostly down to earth, whereas the
IT guy is the butt of the jokes, most likely because of the equipment he uses
rather than due to the fact that he reveals certain character traits. Although
these joke-heroes form the core of the cycle, sometimes it happens that one of
them can be replaced by a representative of another related discipline:
An engineer, a chemist and an IT guy are travelling in the same car. Sud-
denly, their engine wheezes, squeaks and stops working.
“Something is wrong with the engine,” says the engineer.
“The petrol is of poor quality,” says the chemist.
“Let’s get off and on and this may help,” says the IT guy.
(, last accessed on 2 October 2012)
Three guys are watching a house. Suddenly, two persons enter the house.
In half an hour three persons leave the house.
A biologist says: “They have bred.”
A physicist says: “No, this is a measurement error.”
A mathematician says: “If one more person enters the house, it will be
empty ...”
(, last accessed on 2 October 2012)
The tendency to tell jokes about researchers in hard sciences as opposed to
researchers in the humanities goes well with the broader trend reected in
the policy of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education to support
sciences more than humanities, e.g. by creating and offering a system of spe-
cial scholarships for students who decide to take science courses ordered by
Three characters in Polish jokes
the Ministry. People connected with the humanities are perceived as more
old-fashioned and traditional. Not very frequently do the representatives of
humanities and sciences appear together in a single joke – but when they do,
their points of view are contrasted very well:
A mathematician, a physicist and a Polish philology researcher wonder
which is better to have – a wife or a mistress.
The mathematician claims: “It is better to have a wife because my din-
ner is always cooked and the house is tidy.”
The physicist says: “It is better to have a mistress – she always smells
good and is eager to make love.”
The Polish philology researcher responds: “It is best to have both. My
wife thinks that I am at my mistress’ and my mistress thinks that I am
at my wife’s – and I can get to the library …”5
Three-character jokes have changed much with passing time in accordance with
the political and economic situation. First, the traditional triad involved a Pole,
a Russian and a German. Somewhat later, they were accompanied or replaced
by an American. Next some members of the EU started to appear in the jokes,
and nally the Japanese and Chinese were introduced into the humorous texts.
There have not been many jokes about Germans recently. The Russians occur
in the context of their newly acquired status as very spoilt and extremely rich
New-Russians. Only certain political issues, special situations or sport events
are able to revitalise the ethnic stereotypes as it happened during EURO 2012
when the teams of Poland’s close neighbours played Poland or against each
other. As the Polish team played Russia, historical antipathies were mentioned.
In particular, the Russian fans wanted to organise a manifestation connected
with their national festival. They submitted a request for permission to hold a
march on 12 June 2012, which coincided with the football game between Poland
and Russia and the Russian Independence Day. They declared that no political
slogans would be used. However, that was not the case and during the march
towards the National Stadium, riots broke out. Over 180 people were arrested.
The Czech fans on the other hand were amazed how positive the attitude of the
Polish was towards them6. Even after the losing match with the Czech team
5 The joke is also known in the version with a great symposium on the subject “Should
man have a wife or a lover”. A doctor, a psychiatrist and a scientist are answering
this question respectively (
nowszych, last accessed on 2 October 2012).
6 Ziemowit Szczerek, Czesi nie mogą się nadziwić Polską. Historyczna zmiana stereo-
-historyczna-zmiana,1810637, last accessed on 17 June 2012.
Dorota Brzozowska
that put the Polish team out of the tournament, the Polish fans congratulated
their Czech rivals, promising to cheer for their team. The idea of brotherhood
and being together as Slavs was evoked in this case.
The national stereotypes are not present so visibly in everyday jokes any
longer. The three-character jokes are more and more ethnically neutral. In ad-
dition, ethnic characters have changed. There is a bigger range of nations repre-
sented in jokes, but they do not create a particular series. The three-character
jokes and their pattern are activated in the cycle of an IT guy, a mathematician
and a physicist. It is difcult to dene which character is most frequently in
this new joke cycle. It is interesting how both – the classical one and the new
cycles – have maintained their highly masculine character. Although the jokes
about a Pole, a Russian and a German have a long history, a parallel cycle
about women of different nationalities does not exist. There are only isolated
examples of jokes about women from different cultural backgrounds, and there
are some jokes about “a blonde, a brunette and a red-haired woman”. Also the
scientists are male and the stereotypes of the disciplines they represent are
strictly connected with masculinity. Finally, not only have the main characters
of the jokes changed, but the jokes are also usually shorter and in consequence
the rule of the three is used nowadays to a smaller extent.
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ska & W. Chłopicki (eds.) Estonia and Poland. Creativity and tradition in cultural
communication,Vol. 1. Tartu: ELM Scholarly Press, pp. 171–186.
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jokes. Stereotypes and identity.] Opole: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego.
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Tartu: ELM Scholarly Press: pp. 127–169.
Brzozowska, Dorota & Chłopicki, Władysław 2012 (eds.) Polish humour. Humour and
culture 2. Kraków: Tertium.
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Davies, Christie 1990. Ethnic humor around the world. A comparative analysis. Indiana:
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Laineste, Liisi & Brzozowska, Dorota 2011. Eastern European three-nation jokes: A
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PWSZ Krosno, pp. 115–126.
... Graham (2003) chooses "multi-ethnic jokes", whereas "Three-nation jokes" is the choice of Krikmann (2012). Finally, Brzozowska (2013) goes for "jokes about three characters". We stick to "multi-ethnic jokes". ...
... From these studies, it can be inferred that Russian multi-ethnic jokes from the two periods share some similarities regarding structures and scripts with their counterparts from other countries, particularly from former socialist states in Europe (cf. Krikmann, 2012;Brzozowska, 2013). ...
In the context of contemporary European labour migration, where the most publicised pattern of labour migration sees Eastern European migrants move West, the dominant scholarly interpretation of Polish jokes is not applicable for the analysis of much of the joking by or about the Poles. Humour scholars frequently categorise jokes about ethnic groups into stupid or canny categories, and the Poles have been the butt of stupidity (‘Polack’) jokes in Europe and the United States. Today, in the European Union, Polish stupidity stereotyping in humour is less active and the Polish immigrant is hard working and a threat to indigenous labour, yet joking does not depict this threat in a canny Pole. The article applies the liminal concept of the trickster – an ambiguous border crosser or traveller – to elaborate some of the characteristics of jokes told by and about Polish migrants in the EU, mainly in the British context. A more robust explanatory framework is thus offered than is currently available in humour studies.
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This article focuses on the role of visual imagery in language understanding. It is commonly held that the use of phraseologisms is most characteristic to spoken language. However, today we are faced with a situation where the usage of written and oral language has blended (in e-mails, on-line communication, social network) on the Internet. Creative use of expressions, even if manifested in an exaggerated or inappropriate manner, may lead to interesting figures of speech. I am going to concentrate on a subgenre of Internet memes – demotivational posters or manipulated photos which contain figurative expressions. Clearly, it is the creative context of the Internet that has given a new life to figurative expressions. People are interpreting phraseologisms differently from a traditional vis-à-vis conversation when being engaged in spontaneous virtual communication. In addition , the iconic nature of the motivation involved in understanding figurative expressions makes it possible to use the phrases as a means of visualisation. That is why it is possible to confirm that phraseological units are remarkably more complex phenomena than simple reproducible linguistic units that do not contain metaphors.
Ethnic jokes are an important and inevitable part of our modern popular culture. According to Davies, these jokes are clearly linked to the relative social, economic and political positions of the joke's subject and its teller. American jokes about Poles, French jokes about Belgians, Mexican jokes about Regiomontanos, English jokes about Scots, reflect the competing pressures of a modern world in which we are urged both to work hard and to enjoy life, to remain loyal to our own group and to treat everyone equally. The evolution of ethnic jokes in various societies is shown to be connected to the histories of those societies and to the dynamics of social change. Davies pays special attention to the jokes told by and about the English-speaking peoples of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, noting the differences in values and class hierarchies that underpin these jokes. "Ethnic Humor Around the World" takes a serious look at humor, drawing on the work of psychologists, folklorists, and philosophers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Polski dowcip etniczny Stereotyp a tożsamość. [Polish ethnic jokes. Stereotypes and identity
  • Dorota Brzozowska
Brzozowska, Dorota 2008. Polski dowcip etniczny. Stereotyp a tożsamość. [Polish ethnic jokes. Stereotypes and identity.] Opole: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego.
Polish jokelore in the period of transition Permitted laughter: Socialist, post-socialist and never-socialist humour
  • Dorota Brzozowska
Brzozowska, Dorota 2009. Polish jokelore in the period of transition. In: A. Krikmann & L. Laineste (eds.) Permitted laughter: Socialist, post-socialist and never-socialist humour.
Jokes and groups. London: Institute for Cultural Research
  • Christie Davies
Davies, Christie 2005. Jokes and groups. London: Institute for Cultural Research.
Polski dowcip etniczny. Stereotyp a tożsamość
  • Dorota Brzozowska
Brzozowska, Dorota 2008. Polski dowcip etniczny. Stereotyp a tożsamość. [Polish ethnic jokes. Stereotypes and identity.] Opole: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego.
Permitted laughter: Socialist, post-socialist and never-socialist humour
  • Dorota Brzozowska
Brzozowska, Dorota 2009. Polish jokelore in the period of transition. In: A. Krikmann & L. Laineste (eds.) Permitted laughter: Socialist, post-socialist and never-socialist humour. Tartu: ELM Scholarly Press: pp. 127-169.