Key Advice Blog

There are plain alternatives to the word ‘offcomer’

Posted on: 02/07/2009

The term ‘offcomer’ is one new English word I learned when I moved to England from Canada. It has a broad range of meanings from non-local to foreigner.  Unfortunately, its use is often in a conversation that involves high emotions – some negative.  There are so many other plain and positive words that would work better.

According to a Cumbrian blog  page on dialect, offcomer means ‘a non-native in Cumbria’ . This is backed up by the Wiki Cumbrian dialect section . But like many words, its use and meaning have taken on cultural, political and economic  influences, like:

1. lack of affordable or available homes for locals due to second home purchases;

2.  businesses, events and initiatives involving people not originally (sometimes this means born in) from the community.

3.  influx of workers from other countries.

The issue of attitude towards offcomers came up in a recent village newsletter. And, most unfortunately, a far-right political party’s beliefs were compared to some residents’ views of offcomers. This is not a new issue to Cumbrian community newsletters – as a 2004 entry on the Lindal and Martin blog demonstrates.

Canada was settled by many UK residents searching for a new beginning in a country with freedom, openness and opportunity. Many Canadians  have proud English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish roots. And, Canada is about to celebrate its human rights history with a new museum. It is sad that a couple of generations later, in the country where many Canadians trace their roots, non-locals and foreigners can be subjected to the verbal intolerance and prejudice the word ‘offcomer’ can evoke.

Everybody comes from somewhere. The following plain and positive words would serve much better than ‘offcomer’.

Why not say: Lars is an ‘ex-Londoner’. Collette is a ‘new Cumbrian’. Ingrid and Al are a ‘great asset to the village show’. All these are clear, concise and plain. They also offer a great starting point for a conversation, rather than a bitter ending to one. The global economy and social media means real and virtual communities are being made- both in-person and online – all the time.

Plain and positive words are a little step for individuals, but a giant step for our societies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a new issue to Cumbrian communities – as a 2004 entry on the Lindal and Martin blog identifies

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