DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE NEWFIE?

Lor’ Tunnerin’ bye, just when you thought there was enough to worry about and snivel at, it seems that now some on our beloved east coast have begun to equate the term ‘newfie’ with ‘nigger’. I kid you not. While I am not from down east, I must confess right off that I never had to grow up being called a newfie. I will add quickly that I was called many other things. All in all, the taunts and jibes simply taught me to overcome bigotry and the like. Yes, it hurt, but so did falling off of my bike. In time, I realized that the words said more about those who were uttering them than they did about me.

It seems to me that as a society as a whole, we simply look for too much to complain about. The term newfie can be found on thousands of websites, and most of these are owned by inhabitants or former residents of Newfoundland-Labrador. I must add that the term is almost exclusively used by these people as a term of endearment, not of scorn or ridicule. In addition, the term is widely used by the people of Newfoundland, (including some friends of mine), by songwriters, artists, producers, historians, and the list goes on.

Some people from Newfoundland today cite the oft used ‘newfie joke’ as a reason for their new found (no pun intended) disdain of the term. They feel that they are being slighted by the rest of us normal folk. (Oops.) One can, in fact, buy large collections of such jokes, and why not? They are, for the most part, clean and incredibly funny. And Canadians see them for what they are. They aren’t meant to be racist, (a stupid term in this case), and they aren’t intended to be derogatory. They are, in fact, meant to be endearing.

As an Ontarian, I am proud of my country and I am proud of our heritage and peoples. That includes the injuns, the newfies, the bluenosers, the farmers, the westerners, and the french. I am sure that there are a plethora of other terms that are native to certain geographical locales, but we’ll save that for another time. I will also add that those attempting to label the term newfie as a racist word simply have no understanding what the term ‘racism’ means. I’ll help you out. Root word: race.

To be honest, I believe that those who feel so strongly about the term newfie in a negative way simply need to grow up and stop looking for things to whine about. One’s lot in life depends on the most part by one’s effort and outlook.

If somebody happens to refer to somebody as a ‘newfie’ in a less than favourable light, it isn’t the term ‘newfie’ that is insulting. In fact, it is the person doing the name calling. If it weren’t for the word ‘newfie’, they would simply find some other epithet to utter since the intention is to insult you. If you would like to start banishing words, I suppose you had better be prepared to add one more to the list after every one that you ban, because condescension isn’t rooted in the words used, but in the individual using them.

I believe the discontent that is growing in a few small places is a sign of something greater. For some sad reason, we have stopped laughing and are becoming a collection of bitter people who love to feel victimized. Let me illustrate a bit. In the 1970’s, Mel Brooks released a movie entitled “Blazing Saddles”. I watched it about a month ago, and my jaw dropped several times. What a contrast to what could be shown only 30 years later.

There is one scene where a cowboy wants to send a couple of horses down the way to check for quicksand. His boss replies something to the effect of “Are you nuts? Don’t waste a couple of good horses, send a coupla niggers.” The movie starred both white actors and black actors. The black actors even got to make fun of the sensibilities and the gullibility of ‘white folk’.

What has changed between 1970 and now? Some will say that we have become much more tolerant. I agree, absolutely. Some will say that we have become much more aware of the pain caused to children by taunting and teasing. Again, I agree and think that this is wonderful. However, something else has happened.

In the process of becoming more sensitive to the feelings of those around us, we have also become oversensitive ourselves. Why did so many find ‘Blazing Saddles’ funny? Were they racist, bigoted, mean-spirited? Perhaps, but I think that there is more to it. I think that before we became so sensitized, we were able to laugh at ourselves. Self deprecating humour is often the funniest form, and by poking fun at ourselves, we are displaying our self-confidence and showing that we are comfortable with who we are.

Whether you are black, (oops, brown, oops colored, oops dark-skinned, whatever it is today) white, hispanic, caucasian, oriental, Italian, Canadian, etc, there will always be a way for somebody to deride you on that basis. That will never change. It isn’t the words that really hurt, however, it is the malicious intent of the individual using them that is inflicting.

I suggest to those who find the term newfie degrading that they should instead thank the accuser, and state how proud they are to be part of such an important part of Canada’s culture. The best way to defeat bigotry is with our attitudes. When we allow these verbal darts to no longer bother us, they will stop being thrown, it’s as simple as that.

By the way. Remember Stompin’ Tom? Order of Canada recipient? Pride of the East Coast? He has something to say to you.

“You might think it’s goofy.
But the man in the moon is a newfie.”

I’d offer up some advice from my newfie friend to you if I could, but so help me, I can’t make out what he’s saying to me.