Some e-mail responses.
What do you think of the word “Newfie”?
of Great Big Sea
It makes me cringe. Although many of the people who use it mean no harm, to another group it is a term of contempt. And as such, I reject it.
[The last time I heard it used was] during an interview on a national radio show, a few weeks ago. The interviewer used it in his introduction of me. The conversation, which I have had a in one form or another 1,000 times, then went like this:
“uh…I’m a Newfoundlander.”
“No, a Newfoundlander.”
“You don’t like being called a Newfie.”
“Why? All my Newfie friends use it.”
And what are you supposed to say then? I have met the enemy, and he is us.
aka Buddy Wasisname
Whenever I hear the proselytizing against the word as a defamation of our character, I cringe. I think of all the people I’ve met who use the word liberally without dislike, or hatred. I think of how many times I’ve seen it printed on cars and their license plates by expatriates living in other parts of the country and who do so with a sense of pride about the place they come from. I am often asked if I am a “Newfie” or “Newf” and I always say yes…
PRISCILLA CORCORAN MOONEY
Mayor of Branch, B&B owner
Up until a few years ago, I was actually fond of the word and believed that those who used it did so with respect and affection for us. In high school, I thought the only people who were against “Newfie” being used were city people who didn’t feel connected to Newfoundland anyway.
My time as an intepreter at Cape St. Mary’s and as a bed and breakfast owner has woken me up to the fact that much of the time, those who use the word view us as a comical crew on a little island—the “ya poor little things, you’re some cute!” mentality.
I have sat through many, many conversations at our B and B where tourists almost feel obligated to use the word “Newfie.” Some use it affectionately, some use it with a bit of an edge, and some use it as if they were speaking to a leprechaun. Those who use it in that foolish manner, also always ask “So what do people actually do in Branch?” I am always tempted to make up some magical story around a fairy mine in the Wester Cove, but I tend to remind them that a fair percentage of crab fishermen in our communities are millionaires.
90% of the time the meaning is negative but we have to realize that a number of Newfoundlanders use it proudly. I was doing filming in Fort McMurray before Christmas and “Newfie” is really common there—both negative and positive.
It used to really bother me… but today I am much more mellow…
Very recently a senior broadcaster asked me if the actors were going to speak “Newfie” and would it be understandable. I mumbled a response. Also a senior story editor contacted me for references on writers that could “Newfie up” a script. I now take it in stride and write it off to having a distinct culture comes with certain cost. Besides, aren’t we supposed to have a sense of humor?
Newspaper columnist for the North-East Avalon Times
It was the Yanks, I think, during and after the War who introduced the term “Goofie Newfie”…
Canadians took 20 years or more after Confederation to catch on to the term, “Newfie”, and begin with the Newfie Jokes. These were simply retreaded “jokes” used against other waves of immigrants. Irish, Polish, Pakistani. In that sense, we were regarded as immigrants to Canada who had to be taught our proper place.
When it began I was truly pissed off. Now I don’t give a damn. Call me anything you want but don’t call me late for my supper.
I hear the word used all the time now but almost exclusively among ourselves. We still feign outrage if we hear anyone else use it. Probably like the “niggers” who also use that word in song and story and call themselves by it—but still wouldn’t take kindly if a pale-complected person said it.
Radio host (VOCM), journalist, former editor-in-chief of The Independent
For so much of our history mainland Canadians have seen Newfoundlanders as second-class people. Worse, we’ve seen ourselves as second-class, and the term “newfie” has helped perpetuate the lie. Half the challenge of turning this place around is changing how others see us—and how we see ourselves. When I hear people use the term “newfie” I tell them how I feel about it. I educate them, in a nice way. I don’t beat them over the head with it. When I hear Newfoundlanders who’ve lived away refer to themselves as “newfies” I also stop them.
“You’re a Newfoundlander and Labradorian,” I say. Be proud, and spread the word.
In general, I think the word is somewhat offensive… When someone who’s not from Newfoundland uses the word they tend to add a joke around it. People will say “hey, you’re from Newfoundland? You’re a Newfie! Did you hear the joke about…”
The last time I heard it was the last time we were on the road, in Victoria, where a waitress said, “how come Newfies talk funny?”
Professor of Political Anthropology at MUN
Some mainland columnists continue to write as if we were a gang of ungrateful children who should stop whining and recognize how lucky we are. They might never use the word “Newfie”, but they might as well.
When I was living in Belfast, people would sometimes exclaim: “Newfoundlanders are the Kerrymen of Canada!” …But these kinds of labels don’t all carry equivalent freight, even if the jokes are the same. People don’t get beaten up or killed for being “Newfies” they ways they might for being “Fenians” or “Taigs” in Northern Ireland.
Local historian and author
I am a Newfoundlander just as my nieces and nephews in Boston are “Americans” and not “Yanks.” …
Through my efforts and those of others we have rid tourist literature of the offensive label, and will continue efforts to banish it into oblivion.
Comic book artist
I find the term as used by outsiders to be as offensive as any racial slur, and something I do not tolerate. I’ve been called a “cracker” and strangely enough, I don’t find that nearly as bad as the “N” word. I was even refused service one time in Chinatown because I was white and even that didn’t make me a thousandth as angry as the “N” word has the ability to do with me.
Actor (Three Chords From the Truth, Jerry)
I am loathe to tell anyone how to live, but I will tell people who don’t know otherwise that “Newfie” can be considered offensive. Then, if they want to use it I can feel okay about smashing them in the head with a bottle of Screech, kicking them with my rubbers while they are down, and sailing back home in my concrete dory (yup, heard that one outside a bar in TO).
Actor, educator, former member of the Dance Party of Newfoundland
Nobody ever says, “those Newfies are really breaking new ground in the petroleum industry. Gosh those Newfies are brilliant.” Instead, I’ve only heard it bandied about in a negative context. For example, I worked with this ‘gem’ of a human being in Seoul while I was teaching there a few years back and he had a theory that 5% of all Alberta’s tax money goes towards the beer money for half a million lazy newfs back home on the rock. He and I didn’t share the same opinion obviously.
At the same time, I really don’t think we should care what people think of us.
It’s our word. We own it and should own up to it. Any fans of the genius Dave Chapelle understand that sensitive words can be made so commonplace they lose most of their sting. …His point was words are who we are, and to chip away at that is to dilute the power of our culture. And good lord, don’t be doing that to a Newfoundlander.
Author, publisher, editor
I’m a mainlander who has chosen to live permanently in Newfoundland. Call me a Newfie? It doesn’t stick. I don’t care for the word, though. It’s too often lazily associated with a stereotypical view of Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders as jolly and backward—which never was true, but is even more ridiculous now, considering that so much of the art here is on the cutting edge: The Great Eastern, late of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland; the painting of Christopher Pratt; the music of Pamela Morgan or Duane Andrews; the theatre of Artistic Fraud; the radio documentary of Chris Brookes; the book design of Tara Bryan; the cosmology of Andy Jones. I could go on and on.
Justice of the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador
Judges are advised to avoid participating in public controversies. Sharing an opinon on the word “Newfie” is a borderline case. But considering the significance of our 60th anniversary of Confederation, I have decided to respond and hope I will be excused if my comments offend anybody…
I cringe when I hear references in our local media to the need for Newfoundlanders to develop greater self confidence. Do these commentators have a sense of inferiority? Is this why they react so negatively to the word “Newfie”? Why do they believe we lack self confidence? The skills and work-ethic of our fishermen and workers generally have long been given favourable recognition by employers all over the world. The same for our musicians and artists.
Musician (Mercy, The Sexton)
As an adjective it makes everything sounds like fluff—“newfie music, newfie margarine, newfie food”—as if something “newfie” was kind of a playful imitation of the real thing. As a noun, it’s worse, but occasionally forgivable if your friend from Toronto drops it innocently. It’s better than “newf”. I think it works against us to always pounce on the word when we hear it, to be always correcting it, but maybe that’s the only way to kill it.
I think, like with all controversial words, the intention of the speaker has a lot to do with the meaning of the word or the way it is interpreted. For me Newfie is a term of endearment between me and my friends, or a point of pride or identity “I’m a Newfie”. Newfie is also a noun I use to describe Newfoundland: “Can’t wait to get home to Newfie!” or to mean the population of Newfoundland: “Come on Newfie, elect that bastard right out of office!”
I hate the word “Newfie”. The word crawls into my brain like those earwig things in the Wrath of Khan. Derogatory, obscene and offensive—it is also too easy. It belongs with the plaid shirt, rubber boot, mummers-in-the-summer bullshit that has been pawned off as our “culture” for far too long. Cute. Quaint. Simple. Three things that we most definitely are not.