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The meaning and origin of the expression: Is the Pope Polish?

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Is the Pope Polish?

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Meaning

A jokey alternative version of 'Is the Pope Catholic?'.

Origin

is the Pope Polish?For many centuries all Popes were Italian and so then, as now, this joke would have been irrelevant. The Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected as Pope in October 1978, taking the the name of Pope John Paul II. He was the first non-Italian Pope since the Dutch Adrian VI in 1523. Up until then the line 'is the Pope Italian' would have had the same rhetorical ring as 'is the Pope Catholic' - because they always were. The opportunity for the double irony of 'is the Pope Polish' was too much for many to resist and the line began appearing in print before 1978 was out.