New­found­lan­ders should just take the com­pli­ment

Northern Pen - - Front page -

New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans are a fiercely proud lot. Canada’s youngest prov­ince has spent much of its his­tory de­fend­ing it­self from out­side forces both real and imag­ined.

Our in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex vis-à-vis the rest of Canada and the world, how­ever, can some­times man­i­fest it­self in ugly ways. The cur­rent fra­cas over fa­mous vis­i­tors mis­pro­nounc­ing New­found­land has not been our finest hour, and it re­veals a strik­ing lack of self-aware­ness among a cer­tain share of our pop­u­la­tion.

An­thony Bour­dain is a fa­mous chef-turned-glo­be­trot­ter with a hard­scrab­ble life story that could have eas­ily gone in a much dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion for the CNN star. He al­most lost him­self to ad­dic­tion — a sadly com­mon fate in the food ser­vice in­dus­try.

But he cleaned him­self up and now earns a liv­ing travelling the world and giv­ing at­ten­tion to cor­ners of it that many of his view­ers would never oth­er­wise see.

His story and suc­cess through leg­en­dar­ily hard work and per­se­ver­ance against long odds — and his acer­bic hu­mour and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for a few so­cia­bles — make him a per­fect fit for New­found­land. And so he came to shoot an episode here of his highly-rated CNN show “Parts Un­known,” shin­ing a bright light on the prov­ince as a tourist des­ti­na­tion and culi­nary hot spot.

The show’s glow­ingly pos­i­tive de­pic­tion of the place and Bour­dain’s ob­vi­ous affin­ity for it were quickly swamped by that old standby — lo­cals’ prick­li­ness that an Amer­i­can vis­i­tor can’t pro­nounce New­found­land cor­rectly.

Never mind that it’s a hard word to pro­nounce if you’ve never seen it; ig­nore that many place names on Earth would trip up even our prov­ince’s most skilled lin­guists; for­get, even, that many lo­cal di­alects in the prov­ince man­gle syn­tax and gram­mar in equal mea­sure, drop­ping and adding let­ters and syl­la­bles in a way that of­ten ren­ders the lan­guage in­de­ci­pher­able to vis­i­tors.

For­get all of this.

Bour­dain’s trans­gres­sion was un­for­giv­able to the mi­nor­ity of the prov­ince’s res­i­dents who in­sist on flaw­less pro­nun­ci­a­tion while they them­selves speak in what can char­i­ta­bly be re­ferred to as a gen­er­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the lan­guage of Shake­speare.

The prov­ince’s in­fi­nite quilt of ac­cents and pa­tois is un­de­ni­ably a vi­tal part of its her­itage. But “I seen” is just wrong, and it’s ev­ery­where in New­found­land.

The prov­ince’s self-ap­pointed lan­guage po­lice should both lighten up and look in the mir­ror. Mock­ing vis­i­tors for how they speak is a great way to keep them from com­ing back. Do­ing so while pep­per­ing your own lan­guage with er­rors and mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tions is even worse.

Our friends in Saskatchewan, Mi­ramichi, and Iqualuit don’t ag­o­nize over vis­i­tors’ man­gling of their place names. They’re just glad they vis­ited.

Michael Hatch

Ot­tawa (orig­i­nally from Cor­ner Brook)

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