Monday, November 1, 2010

Political Sewer Pipe From Carleton County

If you watch parliament or the legislature you’ve no doubt witnessed the verbal sparring and heckling that’s become a part of the Westminster parliamentary tradition. Some days you’d figure anything goes.

Last week’s opening of the Nova Scotia legislature not only got me thinking about decorum and in particular about a book my colleague Wayne Gaudet showed me which includes a list for parliamentarians on what can and cannot be said. The list is continuously updated with rulings by parliamentary speakers throughout the Commonwealth.

Perhaps the most famous phrase contributed by Canada to the banned list is Pierre Trudeau’s famous “Fuddle Duddle” in 1971.

Some banned words are obvious – liar (1959), racist (oddly enough banned only in 1986), jerk (1980), sleazebag (1984), and scuzzball (1988).

However, some words and phrases stricken from the language of parliamentarians make you wonder about the story behind them. In 2007 calling someone a “weathervane” was banned. While back in 1881 saying someone is “inspired by four-rod whiskey” was deemed equally inappropriate.

Also on the list are from saying someone “has come into the world by accident” (1886), is a “trained seal” (1961), is a “bag of wind” (1878), or is an “evil genius” (1962).

One of the most intriguing ones to me is a banned phrase which I presume originates from the New Brunswick legislature, that is calling someone a “Political Sewer Pipe From Carleton County”. For those who don’t know, this is the area which is home to the world’s longest covered bridge in Hartland.

Apparently though it’s still ok to call someone a political sewer pipe from any other county in Canada. Just like it’s apparently ok to call someone a trained sheep. 

Well, at least until a speaker somewhere rules otherwise.