Home Global To F bomb or not to F bomb? Why that word Justin Trudeau did or didn’t say still matters

To F bomb or not to F bomb? Why that word Justin Trudeau did or didn’t say still matters

To F bomb or not to F bomb? Why that word Justin Trudeau did or didn’t say still matters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with reporters before question period on Wednesday.

There is a reason why an F bomb on Parliament Hill hits different than one down the street.

By Alex BoydCalgary Bureau

Thu., May 5, 20224 min. read

Article was updated 47 mins ago

We are two and a half years into a pandemic. There is a war raging in Ukraine. Canadians are feeling the pinch as food prices and other daily items go up.

The prime minister might have stated f —– in the House of Commons (rhymes to trucker, clucker, or even shucker).

“May Have” as it isn’t entirely clear at the time of writing. The Commons stream didn’t pick it up, and the deputy speaker says that he did not hear the message. However, a few other MPs claim they heard the message. Official record keepers say that it was impossible to discern.

But the incident this week, during a question period exchange over whether a military plane had surveilled protesters during Ottawa’s “Freedom Convoy” — an assertion Justin Trudeau called “dangerously close to misinformation” — highlighted the enduring power of profanity.

Throwing fuel on the fire was Trudeau himself, by dangling a comparison to his father, another prime minister once accused of lobbing an F bomb at opposition members in the House of Commons, some 40 years (and a whole different sensibility about profanity) ago.

Despite being held to a higher standard, and still having the ability to offend, even after all these years, the hallowed halls that are Parliament continue to hold language to an even higher standard. Given the state of political and public discourse today, it doesn’t really matter if the prime minister stated it. Lisa Young from the University of Calgary says that it is almost irrelevant.

The ready-made anger toward Trudeau, some of which flowed online and elsewhere after the Commons incident, comes with a whole lot of posturing — “It’s a way to express much more generalized frustration with the prime minister and the political status quo.”

There is a reason why an F bomb on Parliament Hill hits different than one down the street, or why politicians are arguably held to a different standard than truck owners with F– Trudeau stickers blazoned across the back window.

” You expect a certain level of dignity and respect when you’re the head of government.” This is what Alex Marland (author of Brand Command: Canadian Politics in the Age of Message Control) says.

” If it were a backbencher, would it be relevant?

There have been rules regarding what you can and cannot say as long Canada has had Parliament. It is not possible to accuse someone of lying, or suggest that another person is dishonourable. You can’t swear. However, it’s difficult to define exactly what that means. Some of the most offensive phrases to get parliamentarians into trouble.

According to a 2011 book called “Fascinating Canada,” in 1878, it was calling someone “a bag of wind”; in 1890, the word “blatherskite” — meaning someone who talks a lot without making any sense — was ruled off-base; and, in 1967, someone got in trouble for calling another “a pompous ass.”

Of course, it’s another word, the one comedian George Carlin called the one of the most interesting in the English language, the sole term referred to as the “f word,” that tends to get people into trouble these days.

Alberta’s Jason Nixon was reprimanded in April for accusing another MLA of calling him a “f–ing liar.” (An insult he followed up with “that’s why your career is over, Todd.”) Also last month, British Columbia Premier John Horgan dropped his own f– it in response to heckling from the opposition, leading him to apologize for “”intemperate comments.”

Then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau smilingly points at his caricature on a

But of course, it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s alleged F bomb in 1971 that his son referenced this week. At the time, the elder Trudeau refused to confirm the words he’d mouthed, and asked instead, “What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say ‘fuddle duddle’ or something like that?”

When asked what the younger Trudeau had said, MP John Barlow told the House, “It was not fuddle-duddle.”

And while it might be Trudeau’s fate to be forever compared to his father, times have changed, says University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young.

“The difference here is probably that swearing in public was much more of a taboo in 1971. She says that it is impossible to imagine foul language being used on TV in the past. There were also no streaming platforms to help with that.

“So, you know, in some ways, I think it’s probably less newsworthy today than it was when Trudeau the elder used the language.”

As society in general has gotten more comfortable with profanity, there has been an uptick in deliberate usage on the campaign trail, she says. She says that swearing can help you appear more passionate or approachable.

“Using this language in Parliament or the legislature is less likely to result in that calculation she states. It was not his intention to speak and the rules were broken. “I think it was a slip up, if this happened.”

A 2009 study in NeuroReport had volunteers plunge their hands into icy water to determine that swearing may actually alleviate pain. Trudeau’s comments came at a time of high tempers, just two years after a worldwide pandemic.

Put another way, as Mark Twain once said, “In certain trying circumstances … profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.”


Anyone can read Conversations, but to contribute, you should be registered Torstar account holder. If you do not yet have a Torstar account, you can create one now (it is free)

Sign In


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the

Code of Conduct. These opinions are not supported by the Star.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here