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The fuddle duddle incident

In 1971, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau apparently swore under his breath during a parliamentary session. He later referred to it as “fuddle duddle” – and so a minor scandal and a major pop culture phrase were born.

Pierre Trudeau (1975)

Rob Mieremet / Anefo [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the transcript of the interview from a press conference after he swore in the House of Commons:

Trudeau: Well, it’s a lie, because I didn’t say anything.
Press: Sir, did you mouth it?
Trudeau: [annoyed] What does “mouth” mean?
Press: Move your lips.
Trudeau: Move your lips? Yes I moved my lips!
Press: In the words you’ve been quoted as saying?
Trudeau: [half smile] No.
Press: What were you thinking… when you moved your lips?
Trudeau: What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say “fuddle duddle” or something like that? God, you guys…! [walks away]

The phrase has been absorbed into Canadian culture: songs, magazines, and ski runs (!) have been named in its honour. You can listen to one of them below.

His son went on to both become Prime Minister of Canada and swear in parliament, although we have a better record of Justin Trudeau’s expletive than his father’s.


Categories: History Language Modern history North & Central America Places Politics & law

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

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