For some the word still cuts right to the bone. For others, it slides off the back. For even more, it has been chewed up and swallowed; used to help define who they are.
No one knows for sure where the word “Newfie” first came from, but it wasn’t truly until after April 1, 1949 that it started seriously taking root in our minds and the minds of other Canadians.
What is a Newfoundlander?
Newfoundlanders, what are we?
By the late 1960s, 20 years into Confederation, Newfie jokes had spread themselves thick across the mainland. For many Canadians, the word and the jokes became the first things to spring to mind about us and our island in the middle of the North Atlantic.
Flash forward to 2009—past the eventual collapse of the cod fishery, the outmigration of thousands to the mainland, and past years of economic reliance on the rest of the country—we have found ourselves in a position of relative, if tenuous, prosperity.
“Have” status. A “revolution between the ears.” “I don’t think the Newfie joke is there anymore,” our premier has said.
But even now we can’t honestly look at Newfoundland identity without also looking at that word. No matter how much some people try, there’s no scrubbing it away, burying it, or drowning it. Has it taken on new meaning? Is it less insulting than before?
What does it mean now?
It depends on who you ask.
Compiled and edited by Sarah Smellie, Elling Lien, and Bryhanna Greenough. Photos by Elling Lien.