It’s déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra used to say. Here I am hunched over a keyboard in the middle of the night venting about the Screech-in ceremony although to me ‘ceremony’ is too strong a word.
I am glad that plans for the silly idea of a setting a world record for the largest Screech-in have been mercifully scrapped. It was an ill-conceived notion from the start. What was the goal? What was it meant to do? Was it to honour us in some way or was it a publicity stunt?
Those are good questions you might ponder, and I won’t prompt your answer except to say I was against the whole thing right from the beginning. The argument was that because the proposed Screech-in was to be held on the mainland it somehow lacked authenticity. I offer the idea that Screech-in authenticity fled the scene long before that.
An invented notion
This subject has come up with me several times. The problem I have with Screech-ins is that the whole thing has nothing to do with us. It is an invented notion. Joe Smallwood never heard of a Screech-in. Neither did anyone else including you and me before the early 1970s. That’s when it was introduced as a cute party event. It has no basis in our past or the Newfoundland and Labrador culture.
A few years ago, a young fresh reporter just out of journalism school referenced in a story “the traditional Newfoundland Screech-in.” It made me cringe, but I said nothing.
In another incident a friend of mine visiting from Ontario said to me proudly a couple of years ago that she had already been “Screeched-in” on George Street. She was quite proud of it as if she had accomplished something that she wanted to tell me about. Who am I to spoil her day?
I don’t know it as a fact, but I suspect the roots of the Screech-in lie somewhere in the ceremonies like the nautical one of King Neptune coming aboard ships that cross the equator. That’s a big hit on cruise ships these days and involves passengers dressing up in silly costumes and going through bizarre and slightly humiliating rituals.
They don’t kiss cod fish or stand in buckets of saltwater but there are equally ridiculous requirements and rituals, and, in the end, they get themselves a certificate saying that they did something. They also get to tell the story to the folks back home after their vacation.
Sounds like that is a ritual that has “Screech-in” written all over it. There’s a sense of it being ancient but in the end is slightly cringe-worthy. Now for me even the words in a Screech-in make me a bit uneasy.
“Are ye a screecher? Is you a Newfoundlander? Indeed, I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!” Who talks like that? Not me and nobody I ever knew.
I am delighted there is no attempt at a world record Screech-in.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]