“Newfie” e-mail responses

Some e-mail responses.

What do you think of the word “Newfie”?

BOB HALLETT

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.”

“Right…a Newfie.”

“No, a Newfoundlander.”

“You don’t like being called a Newfie.”

“Not really.”

“Why? All my Newfie friends use it.”

And what are you supposed to say then? I have met the enemy, and he is us.

KEVIN BLACKMORE

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.

PAUL POPE

Film producer

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?

RAY GUY

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.

RYAN CLEARY

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.

BRAD GUSHUE

Curling superstar

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?”

ROBIN WHITAKER

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.

PAUL O’NEILL

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.

LOIS BROWN

Writer/filmmaker/actor

It’s offensive.

WALLACE RYAN

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.

SUSAN KENT

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).

DAVE SULLIVAN

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.

JODY RICHARDSON

Musician

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.

STAN DRAGLAND

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.

LEO BARRY

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.

DUNCAN MAJOR

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.

LIZ SOLO

Musician

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!”

BRAD HODDER

Actor, director

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.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?:

What do you think of the word “Newfie”? Speak your mind here.

12 comments

09-02-10(17:14:29)

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9 February 2010

  1. Andrea Ignas · February 9, 2010

    I had confronted this issue recently. I work at a cultural organization in Toronto, and we are currently working with Artistic Fraud, a theatre group from Newfoundland, on a production that is set in the town of Buchans. When researching information for the project, I had come across many Newfoundlanders referring to themselves as Newfies. I had always thought Newfoundlanders felt this was an inappropriate term – which some do. I figured it would be more respectful if I referred to Newfoundlanders as Newfoundlanders, and let Newfoundlanders refer to themselves as Newfies if they choose to do so.

  2. Marcus NEWFIE Taylor · February 9, 2010

    Yeah, a bunch of pretentious Townie writers, artists, actors talking about how HURTFUL and EVIL the word ‘newfie’ is – “the other N-word”.

    Oh, you self-important, incestuous circle of unbridled ME-monkeys!!!!

    IIRC, one of you realized the vast difference between urban ‘Townie’ Newfoundlanders and rural ‘Baymen’ Newfoundlanders and how there were no ‘baymen’ (not your word) present in the discussion…briefly, for a moment, before going back to how important and UTTERLY CORRECT *your* opinions are.

    And another thing, you’re ascribing a single contextual usage of an OTHERWISE HARMLESS WORD. It’s not ‘newfie’ to blame here, it’s the bigotted asshole who’s using that word as a slur against your sensitive sensibilities! It’s just a FUCKING WORD; the jerk *could* use ANYTHING to attack you – even the word “you” – and it all comes down to context, tone of voice and body language!

    Oh, and I really love the ego that you exhibit in equating a slang term for a half-million (and dropping) white people of specific ethnic background to a slang term for arguably the second-most oppressed people in the history of mankind!!! Can I get one of you to climb down from your ivory tower for a moment to pay for the pizza you fucking snobs, or should I just leave it, pay my employer out of my own pocket and bow-and-scrape away from your exaltedness?!?

    Again, I recall one shining moment of clarity when one of you Politically Correct WordNazis™ commented that he refers to himself as a ‘fag’, and the word does NOT hold the same evil cachet for him that others would…and then he thought about people he knew who LIKED to refer to themselves as ‘newfies’…and for a brief instant, started to waver in your Crusade Against A Simple Word, but then thankfully the moment was over and the rest of your coven brought him back into the fold.

    I use the term ‘newfie’ to refer to myself and my kinfolk.

    Sidenote to Mr. Cleary: “Newfoundlander and Labradorian” is NOT ‘the word’; for starters IT’S THREE FUCKING WORDS YOU MORON!!! Also it’s ten syllables and thirty damn keystrokes. And it smacks of the U.S.Department of Interior ‘pigeonholing’ inventory term “American Indian”; artificial, contrived and excessively long-winded.

    So I say to all of you pretentious ‘artistes’ with precious sensibilities that cannot tolerate a simple WORD, even when it is not hurled at you with invective, but as an olive branch, or term of friendship, kinship or endearment; the problem here is not with ‘newfie’ but with YOU.

    Maybe you lot should go hang around in 4chan for a month or two, or indeed ANY internet forum or message board…

    AND LEARN TO DEVELOP A THICK SKIN.

    If you think Mainlanders with superiority complexes toward us Newfs is the worst problem you have to deal with, you’re gonna LOVE it when you decide to join the 21st century and get online…

    I am a Newfie; I like the term (it’s short to say and type, and conjures up an ethnic image I LIKE: one of irrepressible humour and determination to live in a harsh, forbidding place for centuries). If someone wants to use this term as an epithet to attack me, I will deal with that person INDIVIDUALLY, and not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’. If a stranger comes up to me and asks “What’s up, Newf?” with no apparent malice or ill-intent, I take the term as affectionate, and greet them with good graces.

    I don’t get bigoted against people who use a simple word. Heaven forbid, flying off the handle at someone who made no deliberate offence at me would CLEARLY be construed as a personality flaw of ‘overly sensitiveness’ on MY part.

    I’m a Fucking Ne- *thinks, and checks with wife* YEAH, I’m a FUCKING NEWFIE, and you lot a) better learn to deal with that, and b) NOT TELL ME HOW I CAN REFER TO MYSELF AND MY PEOPLE.

    FUCK YOU.

    (And you know what? I’m reasonably certain that you’ll have to block this comment, but I don’t really care – I’ve vented my righteous anger, and likely I’ve at least gotten ONE person to read it :) Thanks anyway!)

  3. Wallace Ryan · February 9, 2010

    Calm down. I think you need to develop a thick skin. There’s no need to get over-wrought and hysterical just because you don’t like people from St. John’s speaking their minds. Maybe “newfie” is good enough for you, but as anyone from this province, either rural or urban, who’s traveled anywhere outside this province knows, the term is used in a derogatory and patronizing manner by outsiders to describe and to denigrate us.

    Maybe you should save your vitriol for those who patronize and insult your fellow Newfoundland and Labradorians instead of attacking your citizens.

    And I always hated the term “Townies” too! It just sounds lame…

  4. C.H. Monster · February 9, 2010

    It’s just come to me – this is the difference: those who identify as Newfies, don’t care what outsiders think of Newfies.

    What i’d really be interested to see is an analysis of what it is about St. John’s culture that causes people to tend to care more about their external cultural image. Because this issue is most definitely a part of an rural/urban divide, a divide that has yawned across the colony/nation/province throughout its history. You want to talk racism, let’s talk about townies and baymen and skeets.

  5. Neil Butler · February 9, 2010

    You sound jealous.

  6. Jill H · February 9, 2010

    I think anyone who is offended by the word Newfie is lacking in their sense of Newfie nationalism. Take some advice from your parents and stop being concerned with what the rest of the world thinks of you. Being a “Newfie”, as opposed to a “Newfoundlander”, means being proud of your roots and your individuality. Yes were are different. Yes we are both modern and old fashioned. But we all hail from this island and we all share a history or hardship and struggle against the environment. Acknowledge your ancestors and be proud. Be a Newfie.

  7. Nicolas Croucher · February 9, 2010

    Yeah why don’t the townies get off their high horse, fuck sakes I gets made fun of more in St. John’s for being a bayman than I do on the mainland for being a Newfie. Give your fucking heads a shake.

  8. Timothy Riley · February 9, 2010

    My first trip to Labrador was my first experience with a Newfoundlander. We saw someone walking along the road and asked for directions. He gave us what he thought was the directions and then said “ah what do I know I’m just a dumb newfie.” We all had a good laugh and followed his directions to where we wanted to go. Newfoundlander or newfie, it makes no difference to me, just let me know so I don’t keep offending you. After all, I’m just a Maineiac.

  9. Kevin · February 9, 2010

    Well said.

  10. Edwina Suley · February 9, 2010

    To Jill H and others,
    Clearly the term “Newfie” is offensive to some of us. The term “Newfoundlander” and/or “Newoundland and Labradorian” is not. So why not use the term that is definitely NOT offensive? I am proud of my roots, my history, and my culture. So when I hear someone use the derogratory “N” word, I dismiss the speaker with the thought that they are somewhat at a loss for an intelligent word.

  11. C.Hunt · February 9, 2010

    yes, I can tell you relly have a sensitivity of words…

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