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Why so many Kowalski-s?

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Azek from Kazakhstan
Jan 7th 2011 at 5:32:55 AM

Does this name sounds especially cool for american audience or something?

I had a discussion on russian cinema forum a few weeks before about this name. I basically shot the original poster's idea off, saying that this name is a very common polish last name.

But, this week i absolutely unrelatedly watched Vanishing Point and here is another Kowalski!

After that, i just can't ignore this anymore.

Even today i randomly clicked on Noble Bigot and again stumbled on quote by yet another Kowalski.

What's going on? How can Polish last name (not even the most popular one) can crop up so often:

Imdb lists 200+ of Kowalski, ok we can probably cut it in half, because of all polish productions listed in there (because of common occurrence of that name in in Poland).

We can cut it a little bit more excluding numerous adaptations of "Streetcar Desire" or direct homages (like in Due South) but we still have an impressive list left.

edited 7th Jan '11 5:34:51 AM by Azek

Deboss I see the Awesomeness. from Awesomeville Texas
I see the Awesomeness.
Jan 7th 2011 at 7:09:12 AM

If you're proposing a trope, read the stickied threads at the top of Trope Talk.

Fight smart, not fair.
Azek from Kazakhstan
Jan 7th 2011 at 7:58:34 AM

No i'm not proposing a trope (because trope around one particular non-generic name sounds too obscure), i'm just asking what people think is the deal with that name?

Why authors think it's so awesome?

edited 7th Jan '11 7:58:50 AM by Azek

blackcat Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Jan 7th 2011 at 8:15:49 AM

I'm guessing that it sufficiently foreign sounding without being difficult to pronounce. And a quick Google search turned up a lot of places named Kowalski's.

We never go any where without our swords and boas.
TotemicHero Not a bug! from the next level
Not a bug!
Jan 7th 2011 at 10:12:33 AM

If it that widespread, it could be a trope, along the lines of Everything's Better With Bob. No harm in taking it to YKTTW.

edited 7th Jan '11 10:12:52 AM by TotemicHero

Expergiscēre cras, medior quam hodie. (Awaken tomorrow, better than today.)
blackcat Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Jan 7th 2011 at 10:56:32 AM

Do check on Lost and Found first to make sure there isn't an article about this already.

We never go any where without our swords and boas.
DoktorvonEurotrash Welcome, traveller, welcome to Omsk
Welcome, traveller, welcome to Omsk
Jan 8th 2011 at 2:25:38 AM

My guess is that A Streetcar Named Desire has popularised it to non-Polish people.

I'm not Polish and don't have any close acquaintances who are, and if anyone asked me to think of a Polish surname off the top of my head, I'd say "Kowalski".

It does not matter who I am. What matters is, who will you become? - motto of Omsk Bird
Jan 11th 2011 at 3:36:15 PM

Why are there so many fictional Poles called Kowalski? Becuase lots and lots of real Poles are called Kowalski. It was the most common Polish surname in the 20th century, so of course it'll get used a lot in fiction. Like the English surname "Smith".

Azek from Kazakhstan
Jan 13th 2011 at 1:03:40 AM

Well, Kowal does stand for smith.

I know that Kowalski is popular last name, but it's not THE most popular polish last name.

Duckay from Australia
Jan 13th 2011 at 3:12:03 AM

Wikipedia isn't a great source, but it tells me that "Kowalski" is currently the second most common Polish surname and used to be the most common.

Idler20 Rabbit Season
Rabbit Season
Jan 13th 2011 at 5:15:38 AM

Mustn't forget the esteemed Major Kowalski and his remarkable ability to die every time he appears.

You're an ad hominem attack!
Jan 25th 2011 at 6:51:07 PM

I find it is a very common ethnic name used to apply an aura of foreigness or coming from an immigrant family to what would otherwise be a WAS Py character.

Jan 26th 2011 at 1:16:18 PM

Maybe it's because compared to many other polish surnames it's easier to both identify and pronounce.

Azek from Kazakhstan
Feb 2nd 2011 at 9:23:26 PM

Easier to spell than Kaminsky, Kandinsky or say Malevich?

edited 2nd Feb '11 9:23:47 PM by Azek

Madrugada Zzzzzzzzzz Relationship Status: In season
Feb 2nd 2011 at 10:35:49 PM

And easier to figure out how to say than Kruchezski

...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Feb 3rd 2011 at 7:54:47 AM

We could make a trope or useful note about most common names in different nations in Real Life.

Fuhrmann, es kostet dir noch dein Leben
suedenim Teutonic Tomboy T-Girl from Jet Dream HQ
Teutonic Tomboy T-Girl
Feb 3rd 2011 at 8:07:09 AM

That link from The Other Wiki also notes that "Jan Kowalski" is often used, in Poland, the way we use "John Doe" or "John Smith," which is a banner of being (or being thought of as) an extremely common name.

Azek from Kazakhstan
May 13th 2011 at 3:05:48 PM

Heh, didnt see this thread when I YKTTW this

BearyScary from Outer Space! Relationship Status: I've got a total eclipse of the heart
Jun 1st 2011 at 2:31:36 AM

Huh. I must say, this is a very interesting forum find. I've been wondering for a while why there are so many Kowalski characters. There seem to be lots of them in war movies and games.

My blog--an ode to the history of video games
Dec 22nd 2011 at 8:26:24 PM

Yeah. Practically any war/police fiction will include some random, non-important squaddie named Kowalski.

The two Jankowskis from FEAR also come to mind, as well as Leon Powalski from Star Fox. There seems to always be some kind of "-awski" or "-owski" around.

edited 22nd Dec '11 8:28:26 PM by Zaka51

chicagomel from Dinotopia Relationship Status: Crazy Cat Lady
Dec 24th 2011 at 11:18:48 AM

We can't forget Due South and Ray Kowalski.

Fly High, Seek Peace
RalphCrown Short Hair from Next Door to Nowhere
Short Hair
Jan 3rd 2012 at 11:54:03 AM

Another Kowalski was in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Del Monroe was the only actor to transfer from the movie to the series.

Under World. It rocks!
Jan 6th 2012 at 6:52:44 PM

I find it is a very common ethnic name used to apply an aura of foreigness or coming from an immigrant family to what would otherwise be a WAS Py character.

I don't think this really explains it, though. Why isn't there an equivalent for Italian-Americans or other large ethnic groups in the US (or is there and I don't know about it?

This phenomenon reminds me a bit of Officer O'Hara, except less stereotyped.

CodyTheHeadlessBoy The Great One from Parts Unknown Relationship Status: Dating Catwoman
The Great One
Jan 15th 2012 at 9:35:52 PM

My guess is they figure it sounds foreign enough yet is easy for an audience to remember.

"If everybody is thinking alike, somebody isn't thinking"- George S. Patton

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