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When is a joke funny or not funny? Ask the several hundred people who commented on a story about a sandwich board outside a P.E.I. restaurant that posed the question, “How do you tell if a Newfoundlander is gay?”
The answer on the board outside Charlottetown’s Terre Rouge was, “If he ‘eyes the by’s.’”
A Telegram story last weekend — also carried in our sister paper The Guardian in P.E.I. — was read by tens of thousands of people who then began mulling over the semantics of the joke.
Prior to news media coverage, someone had posted the restaurant sign on Twitter, along with a subsequent sign about people taking offence to humour.
Terre Rouge explained to The Telegram the restaurant is managed by a gay couple and has a transgender cook from Newfoundland, and the two signs weren’t directly related.
The first sign was put out during Pride week celebrations, and the more recent sign read, “If everyone could stop being offended by everything, that would be great!”
The story on the controversy drew more attention than the original social media posts, with plenty of memes and debate. Some shared photos of an original sign that used the controversial nickname “Newfie.”
Asked about the reaction after the viral news stories, Terre Rouge responded with this statement Friday:
“The buzz quickly turned into a parade of support. After the initial negative Twitter comments were addressed with our statement and news articles, etc., people began rallying with us in support,” Terre Rouge 's social media and bar manager Cody McKenna wrote via Messenger.
“The positive comments versus the negative have been 500/1. People are still sending emails and messages expressing how people need to lighten up and how they support us. We’ve had people contact us from the Caribbean, Alberta, B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador (all across Canada essentially), America and even one from Europe. Some people are even emailing us their favourite 'Newfie' jokes. Something that was very negative has turned around and we are so happy that people have such kindness still in their heart.”
Here’s a selection of the comments from The Guardian and the Telegram’s Facebook pages as the debate raged on:
“The joke is fine, it's the 'stop being offended by everything' sign that was in bad taste,” wrote Katrina M. Lewis.
“Man people really need to pick their battles,” said Tyler Costain.
“Being perpetually offended by everything GRANTS YOU NO SUPERIORITY,” said Dan MacCormack.
“I thought it was kinda cute,” said Kelly-Lynn O’Brien.
“If their food is as good as their sense of lighthearted fun attitudes then it’s a place I want to visit! Love it,” commented Angela Graham.
“Very proud Newfie here. And I thought it was hilarious. As you can see I did not say Newfoundlander, as I don’t think there is anything wrong with that either,” wrote Linsey Kathleen Warren, who lives in B.C.
“I laughed super hard at it, and I’m a Newfoundlander,” said Matthew Thomas O’Leary.
“A truly Canadian sign. I'm sad that people were offended by this as I don't think that the restaurant intended to offend anyone,” said Lynne Irwin.
“Yes, we all need to calm the frick down and laugh at ourselves,” opined David J. Ziola.
“As linguist/language analyst and a woman with several LGBTQ2S dear ones, I say this joke is legit funny. It's a pun, and puns are RARELY funny,” was Dei Lono’s take on the whole thing.
“I’m originally from Trepassey, Newfoundland, and with any sense of humour it’s all in good fun. I just seen the article and I’m still laughing! Offended... lol not one bit b’y!!” said Lee G. Dawe.
“As a straight Newfoundlander I would have been raked over the coals and had my business shut down had I posted this. I find the joke hilarious however the backlash towards someone like me by these so-called social justice warriors would have been horrendous,” said Warford Jeffery.
“This world has bigger issues to deal with than if the By’s Eyes The By’s. Omg get over yourselves people. It’s a bit of fun, if you don’t know how to have a little fun it’s your own issue,” Ronnie Halleran said.
“OK … everyone thinks that laughing at the name of 'Dildo' NL is OK and promotes tourism so get over it. … I am a Newfoundlander and think that the PEI sign is funny, not offensive and much more tasteful than the comments on Dildo,” Donalda Hanlon wrote.
“Is it talking about the bys that build the boat or the bys that sails er?” asked Ryan Callaghan.
“Micro aggressions towards marginalized people are NEVER funny. As a queer person who grew up in Newfoundland, this explicitly explains why I left to find a community/place of acceptance, diversity and personal freedom,” said Leslie E.
“I'm more offended that they (spelled) by's and not b'ys (it's meant to replace the 'o'),” said Bear St. Andrews.
“As a Newfoundlander, not offended by the pun/joke. This is a VERY old NL joke. However, maybe the 'other islanders' should make fun of themselves, not others. I would say it’s because they don’t have our sense of humour, or originality,” Corrie Rowe said.
“Would have been funnier if it actually had happened in NL lol,” said Krista Bailey.
“Another example how snowflakes get their backs up and knickers in a knot over anything and everything. The best Newfie jokes are always told by Newfoundlanders themselves,” said Walter Zarins. "Go Terre Rouge! Thanks for the laughs.”
“I think it's funny too, but then I try to put myself in the position where LGBT people face discrimination and life-threatening situations. Then it seems much less amusing,” Jennifer Robertson said.
“In my opinion, if you don't like it, don't eat there. There are plenty of folks who WILL that are straight, gay, and NEWFIE who can't be bothered to be offended by this and will enjoy the awesome atmosphere and food this place offers Charlottetown,” said Samantha Faye MacIsacc.
“Has the Island gone crazy?” asked Kathy Kennedy.
“I wish people would just shut up about Newfies. I don’t want my children to get the wrong idea and think it’s OK to be one of those. … There’s so much talk about Newfies in the mainstream media and I don’t agree with their lifestyle,” said Brett Tabor.
“Well done, Terre Rouge. Front page of our local newspaper!! Perfect advertising!!!” said Rhonda The Barber.
“Peace PEI we love you!” said Lisa Mesher Crocker.