Calling B.S. on Unparliamentary Language

One of the most maddening things about political campaigns is not the outright lying. It's not the campaign promises they have no intention of keeping. It's not even the Jerry Springer Show guests working as cable news pundits.

No, it's the over-the-top manufactured outrage when one side insults the other with a four-letter word.

It's like watching a vampire doused in holy water at sunrise. They writhe and contort as this horrible word, which they have never, ever heard before, burns their ears and sears their brain.

The offended party clutches their pearls so hard they squeeze them into diamonds. And question why a loving God would create such a soulless monster that would unleash that disgusting word on their delicate sensibilities.

Look, we're not buying your play-acting and crocodile tears. You probably said that word to your kids over breakfast, so quit being such a baby.

A recent tweet by the @HaggardHawks Twitter account — a Twitter account that shares "obscure words, etymology & language facts" — introduced me to the concept of "unparliamentary language."

It refers to insults and put-downs that members of British Parliament will sometimes sling at each other in the heat of battle. But the British are nothing if not overly polite, which is why the British House of Commons has declared that any "language that breaks the rules of politeness" is banned from their hallowed halls.

That is, any members of Parliament (MPs) who use insulting language — such as calling someone a liar, traitor, swine, or rat — will be warned by the Speaker of the House and asked to withdraw those comments or else be removed.

Other unparliamentary language includes coward, guttersnipe, hooligan, and blackguard. (That's the British word that's pronounced "blaggard." I don't know. They're British. Why do they pronounce anything the way they do?)

And because the British colonies have all grown up under the British system, Ireland, Australia, and Canada also have their own unparliamentary language.

For example, "fart" is a word that Canadian MPs care about more than actually, you know, running the country.

Back in November 2016, conservative MP Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, AB) caused a bit of a stink when she accused the Canadian government of treating her home province of Alberta "like a fart in the room that nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge."

It was a passionate, desk-thumping speech, pleading with the Canadian government to get off their gassy bottoms and actually do something.

And just like that time your Aunt Prudence saw the trailer for "50 Shades of Grey," Green Party leader Elizabeth May got that same look on her face and rose to respond.

She said the Canadian government is concerned for all its people, and wants to create jobs in every province, except they only have a finite amount of resources.

Just kidding. She was shocked that Rempel had said "fart."

"I heard her say a word I know is distinctly unparliamentary, and I think she may want to withdraw it," May said. And to show she was above such vulgarities, she even spelled it: "The word was f-a-r-t."

But Rempel was having none of that. When asked by the Speaker of the House if she would like to withdraw the offending word, she said, "Is my colleague actually serious? I just gave an impassioned speech about Alberta jobs, and that's what the leader of a political party has to say? No, I don't withdraw it!"

If she had made an obscene gesture afterward, it might have actually killed Elizabeth May.

A 2011 story on Canada's iPolitics website even listed 106 words that have been labeled as unparliamentary, drawing an admonishment or warning from the Speaker at some point in history.

Those include calling someone a blatherskite (banned in 1890), honorable only by courtesy (1880), and lacking in intelligence (1934). Impugning a person's integrity is also a big no-no. You can't use the word lie (1959), lies (1976), deceived (1960), or fabrication (1959).

Calling someone a Nazi (1962) is right out. You can't also call them a dim-witted saboteur (1956), Canadian Mussolini (1964), a pompous ass (1967), or a bag of wind (1878).

Which brings us back to the word "fart" 138 years later.

Fartgate aired in November 2016, right as Donald Trump was elected, and there was such s controversy that I worry whether the Canadian parliament can handle what's happening here in the United States. I can only imagine the MPs watching U.S. news with their hands over their mouths, all going "Auummm!!" like we did in second grade when someone said "poop" out loud.

I wish American politicians could take some lessons in politeness from their Canadian and British counterparts. While they do have standards they're supposed to follow on the floor, they slag their rivals to the media instead, even while pretending everything is all sweetness and light when Congress is in session.

I'd say they're all full of bullshit, but Canadian Parliament put that on their Disallowed list in 1973. So instead I'll withdraw the comment.

---In the newspaper version of this piece, the column ended right here. But you, dear Internet readers, get 173 extra words. Also, I spelled out "bullshit" in the previous paragraph for you. ---

But this apparently is not the worst thing that has been said in a governmental body. I found a 2010 video of Irish MP Paul Gogarty who shouted at one of his fellow MPs, "F--- you, Deputy Stag! F--- you!" Then he immediately turned to the Speaker of the House and said, "I apologize now for my use of unparliamentary language."

The Speaker said, "That's most unparliamentary language, Minister Gogarty," and Gogarty agrees, "Yes, that's most unparliamentary language, I now withdraw it and apologize for it."

It's too bad that doesn't work elsewhere. Get into a fight with Malcolm from work? "F--- you, Malcolm! I now withdraw the comment."

Of course, that just turns every argument into "F--- you! Withdrawn." "Oh yeah, f--- you too! Withdrawn." But at least that way, all politicians could finally air their true feelings once and for all, and then maybe get some work done.

Or if we're really lucky, they'll just beat the hell out of each other and we can finally start doing things for ourselves.

The 3rd edition of Branding Yourself is now available on and in your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.