A decision by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) to name a street Newfie Lane may have ruffled some feathers in this province, but results from an online Telegram survey indicate most people are not bothered by the term “Newfie.”
There were 1,101 responses to the question, “What do you think of the term Newfie?” Three-hundred and eighty-seven people chose the response, “I hate it,” accounting for a little more than 35 per cent of all respondents.
The remaining 714 respondents were either indifferent to the word or said they loved it, 41.2 per cent chose the response “Doesn’t bother me,” while 23.6 said “I love it.”
A story published in last Tuesday’s edition of The Telegram about the newly-named private lane in Middle Sackville got a lot of reaction from readers, launching a conversation that had stretched to 313 online comments as of early Sunday evening.
An official with the HRM told a St. John’s woman who now lives in Halifax by email that its civic addressing policy “does not exclude potentially derogatory or offensive street names.”
A spokesman for the HRM said it would take a unanimous vote by street residents to change the name. That appears to be an unlikely scenario, as the spokesman said its four original residents wanted the name because of their ties to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Comments from the online survey offered varied perspectives on the term Newfie.
“We are a unique, fun loving people who, thank goodness, see the value in being able to laugh at ourselves,” wrote one respondent. “The individual who was offended should learn to lighten up.”
Some could envision a fun side to living on Newfie Lane.
“I would love to live on Newfie Lane,” wrote a grandmother. “My grandkids could then say, ‘My Newfie nanny lives on Newfie Lane!’ Too bad there’s neither one in Newfoundland.”
“Until somebody put ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ in front of it, then it bothers me,” wrote a person who chose the response “It doesn’t bother me.”
While many chose the “I love it” answer, some of those same people did specifically mention finding it uncomfortable to hear certain people say the word ‘Newfie.’
“Only when it is used by a fellow Newfoundlander not by anybody else,” said one person.
On the flip side, a person who chose “I hate it” also highlighted circumstances where use of the term is less problematic.
“Newfie is a term that can by used by Newfoundlanders for Newfoundlanders, not for mainlanders to refer to Newfoundlanders. When others use it, it is offensive. The same goes for Newfie jokes. It’s OK for a Newfoundlander to tell them, but not mainlanders.”
One person who said they hate the term Newfie suggested that Newfoundlanders living away from home may be contributing to the term’s continued usage by mainlanders.
“Newfoundlanders living away seem to use the term more than those of us who live here. Almost like it is a nostalgic term. That must create confusion for the mainlanders who probably feel the term is OK if Newfoundlanders are using it.”
That perspective was in-part given credence by some comments.
“My gosh to me the term Newfie is a term of endearment. I’ve been living away for 34 years and I can assure you the majority of Newfies I know do not mind at all, actually I’m quite proud, and we think the ones who have a problem with the term have no (sense) of humor or are embarrassed that they are from Newfoundland. They need to lighten up. A very proud Newfie here.”
Some spoke of the term’s usage from a historical perspective.
“I remember when it was used as a derogatory term against Newfoundlanders and while many people use it as a term of affection towards Newfoundlanders now, it is still a term that originated as an insult,” wrote one person who chose the response “I hate it.”