Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dumb Swede

Theme ~ Swedish Rhapsody


OK, today's subject: Dumb Swede. This is a term coined in America. I think I know how this got started, but I was interested in finding out what Google had to say about it. So I entered those two words, dumb Swede, and immediately the page filled with results. There were actually 1,910,000 results. Oh boy, that didn't make me feel any smarter. I thought the term was no longer in use, how dumb of me. Here are some of the results:

  1. Urban Dictionary: dumb swede

    www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dumb%20swede
    Reference to the John Candy movie "Summer Rental". When a person asks a dumb question or does something dumb, they are being a dumb swede.
  2. Assistant Village Idiot: Post 800 - Dumb Swedes

    assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2007/.../post-800-dumb-swedes.ht...
    May 14, 2007 – Post 800 - Dumb Swedes. The stereotype of the immigrant Swede was "squarehead," a large, genial guy who drank too much and wasn't very ...
  3. Dumb Swede by Robert William Service

    www.poemhunter.com/poem/dumb-swede/
    Dumb Swede - by Robert William Service .. With barbwire hooch they filled him full, Till he was drunker than all hell, And then they peddled him the bull About a ...
  4. Dumb swede dive's straight into a Stone! - YouTube

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P4OD8qCMwsMay 6, 2008 - 54 sec - Uploaded by Tookin82
    This dude knows that there is a stone under the surface but dive's anyway:P.

Dumb Swedes at Wallmart - YouTube

www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Q9-a89of0Sep 10, 2008 - 1 min - Uploaded by ottosweden
eurovision 2008 sweden- dumb blondeby abelilan 3744 views · Thumbnail 2:54. Add to. Swedesby johbe08 ...


I looked up a couple and they were kind of funny, but didn't tell me anything about how this originated. 
I believe that Swedish immigrants came here carrying many of these traits:
  • Honesty
  • Conscientiousness
  • Perfectionism
  • Tenacity
  • Pride
  • A fondness for liquor
They wouldn't compromise on their standards or do more than they knew they could carry off with perfection. This caused people from other places, better equipped to hustle and grab a job regardless of how skilled they were, to look down on these dumb Swedes, who seemingly didn't know any better. I also believe that those Swedes, even after they learned English, were uncomfortable with strangers and may often have had too much to drink to ease how they felt. And Swedes in general don't hold their liquor well, so who knows how many dumb things went on with that. 
To me this is all in good fun, but I have read that a lot of resentment built up in the old communities in this country over the term dumb Swede. 
I also must confess to recognizing a lot of the dumb Swede in myself. Many times did I waste the University's money, my salary, looking for perfection in my budgeting or technical writing work. Sometimes, you have to let go of your perfectionism and that must have been difficult for the old-timers back then.
Finally, here's a joke that's popular in Norway, a country that we have a long history with:
Who's smarter than a smart Swede? ~~ A dumb Norwegian.
So, as you can see, even they jokes are pretty dumb sometimes. Have a great day!

    37 comments:

    1. hehe ... very brave of you to tackle such a 'dumb' subject ...

      ... I can imagine that some resentment was felt in the Swedish community ...

      is this term still widely used in the USA?

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    2. Great entry Inger. It's nice when we can laugh at ourselves and not be too offended, however that doesn't make it any less degrading.
      Thanks for stopping by during the challenge, sorry for disappointing you with my "D" word lol...but watch "E" I will make up for it, I promise.:)

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    3. And I always thought it had to do with the vegetable. A rutabaga is also called a swede. I guess I figured it somehow similar to the English expression 'a cloth-eared beet'. I knew it was directed at a person but it didn't have any nationalistic overtones to me.

      Thanks for setting me straight and for sharing your own leanings in that direction. Maybe Swedes, like Canadians, are considered duller - if not actually dumb - cousins. Of course, that doesn't account for the fact that the US would have been a much poorer place without the hardworking Swedes - and others.

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    4. Ha. Well, if it makes you feel any better, the immigrant Germans and Irish were referred to in the worst of terms also. I am of German heritage and I recall my grandparents telling me stories of being pretty badly insulted when they were kids.

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    5. i remember the term 'square heads' from an episode of HBO's Deadwood.

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    6. For whatever stupid reason, many people put down another group so they can feel better about themselves. These are the same people who come home after a bad day at work & kick the dog.

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    7. I can honestly say I've never used that term along with others in my life.

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    8. i just googled dumb Americans and got 49 million 600... to funny.

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    9. I'm like Christine, I can honestly say I have never heard of or used that term before. I thought you were going to tell me it was a hot Swedish guy! :)

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    10. I never heard of this expression before. You Inger certainly blow that theory out of the water!! And we North Americans can learn a thing or two about perfectionism.

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    11. I imagine this phrase would offend Swedes. good to learn about it though:)
      Nutschell
      www.thewritingnut.com

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    12. I wouldn't have a clue where the term came from either, but I have the sneaking suspicion you could probably find a derogatory term for any group you want to look up. I suspect that the "dumb" aspect might be however, when the immigrants came to the US, I have a feeling that speech patterns probably had something to do with it. Nothing like speaking differently to get noticed...

      Cat

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    13. I've never heard the term. I think just about every immigrant group bore the brunt of derogatory terms. Where I grew up there were a lot of Polish, and the same was said of them.

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    14. I've heard "Dumb Norski", too.
      That's me.

      Love,
      Janie

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    15. Like several of your other blogger friends, I had never heard the Dumb Swede line before. Hmm.... and I'm half Swedish so you'd think someone might have thrown that at me a time or two ;-)

      Thanks or the insight!

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    16. Like several of your other blogger friends, I had never heard the Dumb Swede line before. Hmm.... and I'm half Swedish so you'd think someone might have thrown that at me a time or two ;-)

      Thanks or the insight!

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    17. I think it is offensive to label any group with a generic term like "dumb." Within any grouping, there can be a few people who are not as bright as others. But even those individuals deserve our respect.

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    18. Well I have heard of the "dumb Swede."
      My husband and I were born in Jamestown, New York...a very Swedish community full of Olsons, Johnsons, Petersons, Carlsons and more. We have both heard this many times and take it very lightly. To me, it is said more in a teasing way and tho we are both Swedish, are not offended.

      I don't believe all Swedes have been labeled dumb. In fact, it is a land that has produced beautiful people and culture.

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    19. What a wonderful D word to highlight, Inger -- to point out how really "dumb" such labels are!!

      You said on my post that, for my C, you'd forgotten about Chinatown. I'm wanting to see it again, but if it's not on streaming . . . that's all we have right now. I'm going to see if it is ....

      I hope YOU are enjoying the challenge. I'm always happy to "see" you on my blog.
      Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

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    20. You know, I've never heard this term. But every nationality has it's stereotypes. I glad you are able to laugh at it... :)

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    21. Pleasing that so few people here have even heard of the term! My family were Irish immigrants, and we were always encouraged to embrace and have fun with the stereotype. Being a writer, martial arts instructor and keen amateur brewer though I think the creative, fiesty, hard drinking picture might not be too far fetched!

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    22. Hi Inger! I imagine there is a "dumb" or "stupid" any nationality... just not the one of your own ancestry!

      Good fun!

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    23. Sharon: Have you closed your blog, what's going on?
      I always took this lightly and I have certainly heard similar things about other immigrant groups and even Americans. I got 1,910,000 hits for Dumb Swede; Sharon got 49,600,000 when she entered Dumb American (see above). Anyway, I just thought I would have some fun with this and it is interesting that overall so few of you had heard the term.

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    24. Inger, I must have have my head underground all these years...I never heard that expression EVER!!!...:)JP

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    25. I never heard the expression until a few people from Minnesota entered my life, sorry to say. I didn't 'get it' and still don't. There's that 'dumb' stuff in Louisiana, too.

      But, ohhhh, thanks for sending that bread recipe. I am a true bread freak, especially in the winter when the scent of baking bread tortures my taste buds. I'm at: kittiehoward@gmail.com

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    26. Oops, didn't see your second comment in time. Yes, there's a Creole, which is what's still spoken in Haiti. Those from New Orleans who speak Cajun French or Creole tend to have a sharper accent because they carry into the language the local habit of dropping the R and also the accent itself. New Orleans is sometimes called the Brooklyn of the South.

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    27. Have you ever been to Minnesota? Probably more Swedes there than in Sweden. I grew up there..... all Swedes and Norwegians. Often I was the only non-Swede in a group. I never noticed the drinking so much. My first husband was Swedish....My last name was Swanson. "I'll drink to that." Ha

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    28. I never heard that saying before.

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    29. Place another tick in the "never heard it before" column. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. Looking forward to reading more of your a - z.

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    30. Aww... bless your heart. I don't believe I've ever heard that one before. I'm going to have to say a 'ditto' to Jim's comment that you certainly blow that theory out of the water.

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    31. Glad you can have some fun with this term. I haven't heard of this before and haven't watched that John Candy movie either!

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    32. I'd never before heard that expression....I think a lot of immigrants were considered "dumb" simply because they did not speak English.... ridiculous! Nice post!

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    33. Aldrig hört det uttrycket förrut. Kan väl inte hålla med det. Jag är dock stolt i så fall att vara en "dumb swede" även om jag har lite tyskt blod i mig då mamma kom fr Tyskland och träffade pappa här.

      Kram från oss.

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    34. Ha, I reed it with a smile..Interesting post Inger. Couldn´t been easy to come to a new country in those days and not knowing the language...Interesting that so many havn´t heard it...
      Regards from Sweden (a dumb Swede, but don´t drunk for the moment:)
      Lasse

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    35. I've never heard the phrase. Hm. Interesting.

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    36. We've all heard the "dumb blonde" jokes...but I've never heard the words "dumb Swede". I've been the brunt of my share of "dumb Polack" jokes, though. Probably none of us is immune.

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    37. Thanks for all your comments. No, Manzanita, I haven't been to Minnesota, I would love to go. I'm amazed that so few of you have heard this term, what with all the millions of hits on Google. I'm sure you would get just as many for Polish, Italian and so on. All in good fun!

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    Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger

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