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'The Rock' is derogatory

I cringe with potential for outcry whenever I hear or see the island of Newfoundland referred to as "the Rock." That's because as a longtime retired newsman, I remember only too well how the nickname originated. Allow me to recall as much.

When Eastern Provincial Airways, or EPA as it was known, came into prominence and under the auspices of the Smallwood government, it was said in praise of its pilots that if the gull could leave the rock it was pitched on in Newfoundland, then EPA pilots could be expected to fly. In adverse weather, of course.

But when EPA was sold and its headquarters moved from Gander to Halifax, the language - twist or translation, whichever - became such that "the Rock" referred to was Newfoundland as a whole, since one had only to go as far as Nova Scotia to experience Canadian mainland verbal abuse heaped on Newfoundland following Confederation.

Remember the Newfie joke made at one's expense and labels such as the goofy (stupid) Newf and so on? I bring these things up just to make a point, for I suspect that most, if not all, Newfoundlanders by now fit so well into the overall Canadian fabric that they would want to forget them.

In one instance, and accompanied by Canadian mainland friends who had been to Newfoundland, I was attending the entertainment side of the annual meeting of the Canadian Snowbird Association in Florida when we were approached by an American since he knew my friends. Then, when I was introduced as being from Newfoundland, he took particular interest in me for he said that as a tourist he always wanted to visit Newfoundland.

But first he had a question for me: do trees grow in Newfoundland? He had heard it was described as being "the Rock" and was wondering out loud whether it was only a flat rock in the ocean or what?

Fortunately Canadian friends came to my aid and they would speak so well of Newfoundland that the American was inclined to leave. Right away!

To me this is where the Newfoundland Department of Tourism should come in, for it should have been the first to block any nickname abuse of Newfoundland. It didn't, apparently, and it makes for strange commentary indeed. Or it offers quite a contradiction when the government, on one hand and in its commercials extols the rugged and still beauty of the island, while on the other permits it without protest to be seen in the opposite light, like the one that was projected in Florida.

In conclusion, I would add that those using the nickname could be doing so innocently. To me such use is inappropriate and I suspect that once those applying the nickname realize that, they will cease using it.

Thanking them in anticipation,

Bob Moss


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