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Monday, January 26, 2009

Where Can You Find 460,000 Newfies?

Answer: Just go to Google.

While reading an article about Newfoundland and Labrador tourism this week I came across a line in the piece that noted the large number of web sites still using the slanderous term, “Newfie” in either their title or prominently in the content.

This piqued my curiosity of course so I decided to take a look for myself.

A quick search on Google confirmed the article’s assertion by turning up more than 460,000 web sites matching the query “Newfie”.

I have to admit to being more than a little shocked. I knew the term was still in use, even after so many people have finally begun to see it for the bigoted slur it is, but I never suspected it was as widely accepted as it still appears to be. Not in the twenty first century.

Perhaps my saddest realization was that some of the web sites in question appear to have been, believe it or not, developed by well meaning people either living in, or formerly from, Newfoundland and Labrador.

These sites often discuss everything from Newfoundland and Labrador history and culture to family backgrounds or local cuisine. Believe it or not the creators seem completely oblivious to the derogatory stereotype they’re perpetuating on their own people.

They also fail to understand the irony of what they’re doing.

When Newfoundlanders themselves display such an obvious ignorance of the connotations of that particular term they help perpetuate the long standing Canadian tradition of “Newfie” jokes and the stereotype of the “Stupid Newfie”.

There is no question about it.

How intelligent can someone be who refers to themselves in such a belittling way without even realizing they’re doing it?

These sorts of misguided people, and the web sites they run, are bad enough but there are others out there far more disturbing. Some even border on outright hate mongering.

On visiting some of the links I discovered blogs and forums where people, most of whom are from other parts of Canada, gleefully spend their time defending the use of the word Newfie with whatever convoluted logic their limited brain capacity can muster.

On one such site, I found comments like, “…most Newfoundlanders are smart enough to NOT bite the hand that feeds them”. Clearly making the argument that that it’s OK to belittle Newfoundlanders because without the financial support of Canada “Newfies” would starve to death.

In other words, “We keep you fed (which is not true) so we damn well have the right to call you whatever we want” (also not true).

Never mind that by saying Canadians are supporting the “Newfies” these neophytes are also suggesting that they don’t see Newfoundlanders as being Canadians.

This may not be too far from the truth since the Province has never been treated like an equal partner in Canada since Confederation, but that’s a subject for another article.

Clearly the people who perpetuate these myths have one brain cell between them and, on the day that specific bigoted comment was made, it clearly wasn’t the writer’s turn to use it.

Another example of outright Newfoundland and Labrador stereotyping, whether intentional or not, can be found at the site of the Goofie Newfie Restaurant at 105 Queen St. West in Fergus, Ontario.

Here we find online advertising for a pub and restaurant using the name “Goofie Newfie” in an effort to attract and serve bigoted or uneducated clientele living in Ontario.

The proprietors, whether former Newfoundlanders or not, are clearly quite happy to pander to the lowest common denominator in an effort to sell a few chicken wings and make a quick buck, regardless of the harm they’re doing to an entire culture.

I wonder if they would be as willing to sell those hot wings at an establishment called the “Nasty N*gger”?

Perhaps they might expand their business to one day offer a nice bagel at the “Jittery Jew” or a fruit salad at the “Fancy Fag”.

I seriously doubt they would but the “Goofie Newfie”, that’s just fine in their books.

These are just a small sampling of what’s considered acceptable and what is being said every day about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

With nearly half a million web sites (a number that rivals the entire population of the province itself) it’s impossible to know what other, perhaps even more disgusting, dangerous or destructive uses of this, or similar, terms are actually out there.

After so many years of hearing the “N” word you’d think I’d be used to it but I can’t bring myself to quietly accept it. In many ways it comes across to me as being reminiscent of the old south and I simply don’t like it.

It’s disturbing to realize that after decades of paying Canadian taxes, helping build the national economy, providing workers for the factories, mills and oil fields of the nation, supplying raw materials such as ore, oil and timber to the rest of Canada and after consistently filling the ranks of the Canadian forces with nearly ten times more personnel than the province’s population would suggest it should, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still treated with such open contempt.

It’s perhaps even more disheartening that all too often it’s Newfoundlanders and Labradorians themselves who are continuing to spread the term by buying into the bigotry, or buckling under its onslaught, and simply accepting that it’s somehow OK to be demeaned and belittled in this way.


BNB said...

When I wrote about this I recieved more response than any other article. Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are ready to bury the word. Many others are keeping it alive. I think the context of where this word comes from is important to know. In the dictionary of Newfoundland English:

"Now he felt dispossessed, crowded on his own streets, mowed down by the ever-increasing numbers of dun-coloured, army vehicles. The strangers were strutting, becoming the 'big-shots,' They looked down their noses at the natives. They were disdainful of a hard old heritage. They began to call the towns-folk 'the Newfies' and like Queen Victoria, the Newfoundlanders were not amused."

twjtNL said...

Now this is one topic I'm very much torn between. In the dictionary of Newfoundland English, it seems as though 'Newfie' was derogatory from the start.

I know there are those who call us 'Newfies' to belittle or make fun of us. But then I also look at it on the other side.

Recently, I went to Saskatchewan for a wedding. Being the only Newfoundlander there, surprisingly, people seemed quite intrigued to ask me a few questions about Newfoundland, and even listen to me speak.

An older lady came up to me with a huge smile on her face and asked, 'Are you a Newfie?'. I had a very brief moment of hesitation, but I said 'yes'. With that, she gave me the biggest hug because I was the first Newfoundlander she's met.

I think about this quite often: There's Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Canucks, Yanks... is Newfie any different?

I always call myself a Newfoundlander, but should I harp on people who call me a 'Newfie' with no harm intended?

Patriot said...

The simple reply is yes but that doesn't do it justice.

Nobody is advocating "harping" on anyone. Perhaps "educating" is a better word.

I'm sure that older person meant no harm but, knowing the potential uses of that word wouldn't both you and her have been better served if, after accepting her warm greeting, you gently informed her of the facts around using it?

I'm willing to bet she would have accepted your words for what they were and likely would not use the term again. She would probably have also told others in her circle of the situation and helped them understand.

You mentioned not using that term yourself. Perhaps you need to ask yourself why you don't. If you don't believe you should use it then why would you consider it OK for others?

Also, why do you think everyone at the wedding were, "quite intrigued to ask me a few questions about Newfoundland, and even listen to me speak." and why did you get a big hug just for being a "Newfie"?

Could it be because of the crowd had bought into the longstanding stereotype of the "quaint and happy little newfie with the adorable accent"?

Do you really consider yourself that person?

Ussr said...

When describing this topic Patriot, I very much like to compare our nation to that of the African American population in the United States. Now some may not agree with my philosophy on how I describe the situations. How both peoples have suffered under different forms of government, but the philosophy of enslavement is extremely similar to any that have studied both cultures on an academic level.

Now awhile back you may remember how a certain car company decided to make one of its models and name it after one of our more Famous Bays. This to me would represent the height of this debate.
The debate came to the conclusion, after many weeks of feverish discussion,that yes it was perfectly alright for Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans to call themselves what they like as long as it was amongst them. As soon as it came away from home, then and only then did it become inappropriate. The same can be said about the use of a certain word used by the African American population in the United States. If someone of the same culture is able to use a certain word in a song or a piece of slang then it’s OK, but if a white man were to use that name it would automatically become an attack on that person’s ethnicity and culture.

Personally I feel the same way. If I am in Newfoundland or Labrador it’s perfectly alright for a fellow Newfoundlander to call me a “ N@$$*! “, even though the sound of the word sends a chill thru my spine. It’s not the fact of using the name that bothers me, but rather the history of the word. As one of your readers has so politely pointed out Patriot, it was first created to place or to put the locals in line. It was created as a means of separating a certain group of individuals apart from another group of people. And that my friend is my reason for such hatred of the word.

As for this Restraint Patriot I have a little story I want to tell you of and I shall make it short. There was a family from Newfoundland that owned a store back home and decides to move it to Ontario. Now as far as I can tell there are a great number of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans around the Cambridge, Brantford, and Hamilton area of the Golden horse shoe in Ontario, as was discovered by this certain store owner. Seeing the great market that he had found, he diligently worked away at relocating his store to Ontario. After moving his family and all his belongings to Ontario and opening his store he couldn’t understand why business was so bad. A great many people from the community would drop in and grab their bottle of Lime Crush, slice of turkey role and their Roasted Chicken Flavored Chips, but that was really it. And, how are you going to run a business in Ontario selling bags of potato chips. Well, sad to say that after a year and a half, the gentleman from back home was forced to close his shop. I believe to this day he still doesn’t understand why business was so bad when everything looked so promising. To this day there is no “Newfie Store “ in that part of Ontario, but another business has opened. The Newfoundland Store. The store is thriving and the owner cannot seem to keep the shelves stocked with what people want from back home.

Now as for the Goofie Newfie Pub & Grill, at 105 Queen St West, Fergus. I understand that the Pub is owned by Newfoundlanders that have in the past two years relocated to the Fergus area. And, although I wish them all the best, I somehow feel sad for them. Why may you ask? Because, they have yet to learn a very special lesson in life.

You can’t sell potato chips and turkey role and make a go of it in Ontario.

All the best to you Folks, but this is one Newfoundlander that will not be humiliating himself by visiting such an establishment. For dinner reservations please phone (519) GO-TOHELL, .

PS, if I may borrow a line from a certain Blooger ,” it’s time for the Jigg’en to Stop”

" Republic Of "

twjtNL said...

Thanks Myles for your response. I guess growing up, I've heard it more around fellow Newfoundlanders saying it to each other, rather than hearing it from Canadians.

But your response, aswell as from others, were very insightful. It's disheartening to know that a word originally used to belittle us has spiralled out of control on our own island... by us Newfoundlanders.

I came across this website:
(http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Newfie). Apparently 'Newfie' has been used as early as the 18th century, in a non-derogatory manner.

Also, this site may be of some interest aswell.

Keep up the good work Myles.

Anonymous said...

The terms "Newf" or "Newfie" are considered derogatory by many Newfoundlanders. Newfoundlanders are of different views as to whether the term "Newf" is as derogatory as the term "Newfie." As with many ethnic groups saddled with pejorative terms, many Newfoundlanders use the terms to refer to themselves or to each other, and in this context they are less offensive than when used by non-Newfoundlanders.

Well Patriot at least this group sees our nations as distinct.To bad our multicultural society in Canada doesnt see it that way.It really has to make you think doesnt it.

The way I see this defination TW, is in the same context as someone from Poland being called a "Polack" or someone from Pakistan being called a "Packy".

I think its high time that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans change thier mindset.

Good Eye On Ya Any How TW !!!

Anonymous said...

Do a search on french frogs - not as many as Newfie.