“What Cheer, Netop?”
In Rhode Island, the words “What Cheer” are important
because they’re tied to the very beginning of our history. In 1636,
Massachusetts Bay colonist Roger Williams left Salem, Mass.
seeking religious freedom. After crossing the Seekonk River in
a canoe, Williams was greeted on the banks of the other side by
friendly indians who greeted him by saying “What Cheer, Netop!”
which combines both old English and Narragansett words
and means “Greetings, Friend” or “Hi, Neighbor”.
What Cheer? is the shortened version of the
old English greeting “what cheery news do you bring?”
and Netop means friend or neighbor in the
Narragansett Indian language.
After their friendly greeting of Roger Williams, the
Narragansetts traded the land that became Providence
for English goods, and got along well with
Williams and his followers.
This story of the Indian’s friendly greeting to Williams
has been absorbed into the legend of Providence, Rhode Island
with many buildings, streets and businesses being named What Cheer
over the years, including our shop, What Cheer Records + Vintage
(founded 1999 as what Cheer Antiques). It’s also the inspiration of the
name of local punk rock marching band What Cheer Brigade
which was founded in 2005, and of local watering hole, the
What Cheer Tavern, which opened in 2002. It’s also the name
of a building at RISD called What Cheer Garage.
We’ve also found old photographs and mentions
of the following businesses and things that are now long gone,
but took their name from the legend of What Cheer:
What Cheer Airport
What Cheer Wire Works
and Narragansett Beer even made it their slogan