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Old 10-09-2019, 09:38 AM
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CalMeacham is offline
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Location: Massachusetts
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My personal feeling about why the Polish were portrayed as stupid is that Polish isn't a Romance language* or Germanic, so, although people who spoke German, French, Italian, or Portuguese couldn't speak English, anyone who knew a little German or a Romance language (even Latin) could get an idea of what they were saying, and make themselves somewhat understood. But Polish wasn't in the same family, and the language barrier was that much higher. The Polish immigrants couldn't pick up on what you were saying, so they must have been dumb.

My grandparents lived in the US most of their lives, but kept mostly to their own enclaves, and never really learned colloquial English, because they didn't have to. To their dying days they had only a passing familiarity with the language of the country they lived in.

Add to this the fact that most of the Polish immigrants were peasants, with no higher education or high technical skills. My maternal grandmother got a job washing floors at the old Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, because it was a job an unskilled laborer could do. One day they gave her undiluted ammonia to use to clean the floor, and she plunged in her hands and scalded her skin. She couldn't put her hands in water until they healed. The people at the hotel must have thought her extraordinarily stupid. But I doubt if she';d ever seen or even heard of ammonia before. She ended up getting a job sewing clothes in a little nowhere town in New Jersey (she had no skill at sewing -- she had to pick it up quickly), which is where she met my grandfather.



*But there is a surprising amount of latin in the Polish language -- something I realized when studying both languages. It's just not as obvious.
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Last edited by CalMeacham; 10-09-2019 at 09:40 AM.