Majority not bothered by term ‘Newfie’: survey

Andrew Robinson
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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.”


Halifax response to naming of Newfie Lane astounds expatriate

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.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: HRM

Geographic location: Middle Sackville, Newfoundland, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • logy bay
    September 23, 2013 - 10:26

    Time to put this story to bed.

  • Kayla
    September 23, 2013 - 09:40

    I cannot see what the big issue is with the word. If people want to take the stand and say it is derogatory, then they are not true Newfies themselves. Newfie is by no means a word to put us down. Look at our music, our culture, our humor. Newfie is a common name/word in alot of this stuff. Most of our music by those that we love both here and who have passed on already use this term - "He is still just a Newfie in a Calgary Hat" for example. Should this be changed to make it "politically correct"? This story is nothing more than someone trying to get their 15 minutes of fame by finding something to complain about. Am I complaining? Yes, but not at the term Newfie. I love it. Newfie, Newfie, Newfie, Newfie. In this day and age it seems that nothing goes. Can't say this, can't say that, can't do this ......... I don't care who or what complains - I am a Newfie. I was born a Newfie. I will die a Newfie.

    • Cynic
      September 23, 2013 - 12:05

      Not derogatory? I'm sure if I look in an old closet, I can find 5 or 6 joke books bought back in the days when this kind of self loathing was acceptable that would prove you wrong. Or, how about the MP who said Newfoundland shouldn't want control of the offshore because it would interfere with our equalization payments? Or the pregnant woman who was told in the 80s she wouldn't get good health care in Newfoundland? Or Harper's "culture of defeat? If jokes that are considered derogatory when they are told about any other ethnic group can be acceptable to you if they're told about your people (because all those Newfie jokes were Paki jokes and Polak jokes before they got rewritten for us, you know), if having Newfie jokes inform federal policy isn't offensive to you, if being asked how big your igloo is doesn't offend you, if being asked to "say something Newfie" (and, no, I'm not ashamed of our dialects, I have worked pretty hard to keep mine, actually) doesn't offend you, if having the prime minister of the country essentially admitting that his concept of the province is based on an insulting stereotype doesn't offend you, then I make no wonder we are in the position we are in in Canada. You can't expect other people to have respect for you if you don't have any for yourself. And just knuckling under and not only accepting, but welcoming, that kind of disrespect isn't really going to make your betters on the Mainland like you any more, you know. They'll still think you're an uncultured hick, no matter how much you bow and scrape while they look down their noses at you, perhaps even moreso. And "Newfie in a Calgary hat" isn't exactly praise. It refers to the phenomenon of a Newfoundlander who goes away, rudely pines for a romantic notion of Newfoundland that never really existed, and comes back with a straw in his nose and a swagger in his walk. It's a musical way of doing what we all do to people who get too big in themselves: remind them they no better than the restof us, Calgary hat or no Calgary hat.

    • Too Funny
      September 23, 2013 - 12:28

      "If people want to take the stand and say it is derogatory, then they are not true Newfies ". You got that right. Newfoundlanders, and anyone with an ounce of intelligence, knows the word "Newfie" is an insult. As a result Newfies don't know it is an insult. They are the living Newfie Joke. Sadly, you are a Newfie.

  • paul
    September 23, 2013 - 08:57

    I don't really like the term 'newfie' or 'newf'' because I have heard it used in the negative more than once but I don't get too worked up over it. that said, If someone was to call out to me 'hey Newf'....I'm inclined to bite my tongue so I don't respond too sharply... so over all , I don't like it.

    September 23, 2013 - 08:05

    I am not bother by the word NEWFIE,,short for newfoundlanders as i take it.

  • Jeremiah
    September 23, 2013 - 07:58

    Doesn't say much for the "majority". Guess you just can't fix stupid... Or goofy.

  • Whoa
    September 23, 2013 - 07:42

    There are some things that should be pointed out. 1) it is not a survey. It's not even a poll. Surveys and polls are conducted based on statistical methods to ensure a reasonable estimate of accuracy. Therefore, this "poll" is statistically unreliable. 2) In real surveys and polls the people surveyed are only permitted to respond once. This "poll" allowed for people to vote as often as they wanted. It wasn't that long ago that the PC government exploited that weakness. 3) but more interest is how many people voting in this poll were not Newfoundlanders? It's not likely that Non-Newfoundlanders would be offended by the term.

  • Cynic
    September 23, 2013 - 07:38

    There's still a lot of Newfie Uncle Toms around, I guess. In actual fact, the ones who don't like the word are proud of where we come from, proud of our culture, proud of our music, proud of our language, proud of our home. As a matter of fact, most of us are so proud of where we're from that we didn't leave the place for the bright lights and "sophistication" of the mainland, we stayed and tried to keep it going. We lived through the lean years that the rest of them ran away from. And we didn't do that just so the Newfies on the mainland would have somewhere to retire to after years spent pining to return to some romantic ideal of Newfoundland that never really existed anyway. Someone should tell the Newfies on the mainland that there's been a bit of quiet revolution here, and we no longer feel the need for the approval of our "betters" on the mainalnd, and certainly not to the extent that we want to perpetuate an insulting stereotype to get that approval. That's why we don't like it when a bunch of people call us by a term that means they think we're too stupid to know the difference between a case of beer and a case of diarrhea. And you think that attitude isn't damaging? What about a friend of mine, a refugee woman whose husband got a job in St. Anthony. She was pregnant and her obstetrician in Toronto warned her that she wouldn't get good care in Newfoundland and her baby was in danger! She was going to a place with one of the oldest medical traditions in Newfoundland. And the was in the 80s. So, go on, call yourselves Newfies, but don't go complaining when they ask you what size igloo you live in or if you will "say something Newfie" for them. You call that disprespect down on yourselves.

    • saelcove
      September 23, 2013 - 10:14

      I can only say i feel sorry for you and try to lift the chip of your shoulders,

    • Beth
      September 24, 2013 - 13:32

      I could not agree with you more Cynic. My thoughts exactly.Some people have no pride what-so- ever and there are thousands who agree with you whole heartedly. It truly makes me sick to see how Newfoundlanders will degrade themselves for someone elses amusement.

  • Oldtimer
    September 23, 2013 - 06:46

    It might disappoint a few people but the word newfie originated as a nickname for Newfoundlanders long before the Americans showed up in Newfoundland.

    • JackieLogans
      September 23, 2013 - 14:02

      You are wrong. I'm an expatriate who grew up on the Old Rock in the 1950s, and Newfoundlanders often referred to each other as "Newfs" -- but never, never "Newfies."

  • Henri
    September 23, 2013 - 03:44

    To take the online survey as fact is ridiculous, all you need are different email addresses and names. It's obvious that most people are confusing endearment with derogatory. Burying your heads in the sand will not change the status quo, that takes people with a little more courage.