In one of my previous posts, a commenter left a message saying he loved my blog, but hated my use of the word “Newfie.” For some reason, during my last year of travel blogging, I completely forgot to explain the word’s complicated politics. I’m not kidding, friends. This is a serious issue.
“Newfie,” as you can imagine, refers to someone from Newfoundland. I grew up thinking “Newfie” described anyone born before 1949, when Newfoundland became a part of the Canadian Confederation. But people still use it to refer to people from the island today.
The problem is that “Newfie” can have very, very negative connotations. In fact, if you’re a CFA (Come From Away) and you use the term in poor taste, it’s very much considered an ethnic slur.
The whole thing originates from “Newfie jokes” generally depicting Newfoundlanders as dumb. Here’s a mild one:
“A Newfie saw a sign at a restaurant.
Happy Hour Special:
Lobster Tail & Beer.
“Lard Tunderin Jaises!” he says to himself, “Me three favourite things!”
However, because we’re awesome, we don’t mind poking fun at ourselves either, and most of the time we love these jokes.
But the stigma of being a “Goofy Newfie” is seriously problematic. Have you ever read the commentary on CBC articles published about Newfoundland? Don’t – they’re often so hate riddled, your blood will boil. Laziness, alcoholism, stupidity…these things are all associated with being from the island.
Why? One reason is because the province is incredibly isolated, something I’m learning more and more as I’m travelling. As a result, we’ve developed a super strong identity, and we’re damned proud of it. Our language, lifestyle, and culture are unlike anywhere else in Canada. In many ways, we lead very simple lives based on strong personal connections and communal ties.
(Photo by jhetzel.)
Another reason is because of the MASSIVE Newfoundland population living on the west coast, specifically in Alberta. Often the work is contractual, leading to months of EI benefits where the employee takes the cash and heads home. This isn’t because we enjoy the downtime – au contraire – our hearts will always belong to the island, and any chance to get back is a good one. The problem is opposite, actually: Newfoundlanders tend to steal jobs because they make such dedicated, hard workers. Just ask my best friend’s father who is currently doing construction work 12 hours a day, with only every third weekend off. Then ask my father who built our home in Bay d’Espoir…alone.
The list goes on.
Generally, people in my age group don’t mind the word “Newfie.” We often use it as a term of endearment. But if you don’t live here, be careful how you toss it out there, especially to your elders. Once, a furious driver nearly pulled his cab over when my friend Coady said the word, and he didn’t even use it negatively.
While travelling around Nova Scotia these past two months, I’ve had nothing but incredibly positive responses when telling someone I’m a Newfoundlander. You’re not so likely to meet anybody badmouthing “Newfies” nowadays, but if you ever do, punch them in the dick/ovary for me. Then take a picture, and I’ll personally send you a sample of Screech Rum, b’y da jaysus.