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
    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
    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
    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 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 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!


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