There was a time not so many years ago when ethnic jokes were popular. The jokes generally depicted members of the targeted ethnic group as being not very smart. Members of an eastern European ethnic group who are quite numerous in Canada were often the brunt of such jokes. One such joke went this way:
Question: How many [people of this ethnic group] does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Four: one to stand on a chair and hold the bulb and three to turn the chair.
You will understand why I avoid naming the ethnic group in question. A sister in one of our Ontario congregations, observing the Mennonite penchant for turning almost any task into a social occasion, modified the above joke into the following:
Question: How many Mennonites does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Four: one to change the bulb and three to bring coffee break.
Now that is a gross exaggeration. But close enough to hit home. I still tell it on occasion, usually to Mennonites.
Newfoundlanders, often referred to as Newfies, are another group who were the brunt of jokes. When the cod fishery failed and the jobs related to it disappeared, many people from Newfoundland moved to other parts of Canada in search of work. They have a unique accent and there are unique features of their culture and attitude that are different from other Canadians and that gave rise to jokes. The following incident might be called a Newfie joke, but it isn’t a joke on the Newfies, rather a joke on officialdom.
A young couple from Newfoundland bought an old house in a little Ontario village. They soon discovered that the house was slowly sinking into the ground as termites turned the log foundation into sawdust. The house had been built right next to the sidewalk, but zoning laws had changed and if the house was replaced the new house would have to be placed about 10 metres further back. This would place it on top of the septic field, thus a whole new septic system would also have to be installed.
The young couple came up with an ingenious solution – they got a building permit to renovate the old house. They called on the help of friends, gutted the house, leaving only the outer walls standing. They dug the basement deeper by hand, poured a concrete foundation and basement, then commenced to build a new house within the walls of the old. After the main floor was complete, they removed the roof and built a second storey and a new roof. Neighbours, municipal councillors and officials, all came by from time to time to observe this wonder that was taking place under their noses and shake their heads. Apparently it was all legally done.
When the project was complete, they removed the shell of the old house, and voila! they had a brand new house sitting where the old one had been.