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'Fuddle duddle': When the PM denied saying the F-word in the House

Accused of unparliamentary language in 1971, the prime minister insisted he didn't say anything inappropriate.

MP John Lundrigan said Pierre Trudeau 'mouthed a four-letter obscenity' in Parliament

Fuddle duddle incident

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50 years ago
2:14
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau swears he didn't use any four-letter obscenities. 2:14

"The prime minister interrupted me in a way that you wouldn't expect on the street by mouthing a four-letter obscenity," said Conservative MP John Lundrigan.

That was fifty years ago: Feb. 16, 1971. The prime minister was Pierre Trudeau, and according to the Globe and Mail the exchange took place during a question about Trudeau's plans to combat unemployment.

Another Conservative MP, Ontario's Lincoln Alexander, was more specific about what Trudeau had said.

"He mouthed two words," added Alexander, to a group of reporters outside the House of Commons shortly after the incident. "The first word of which started with F, the second word of which started with O."

But Trudeau swore he did no such thing and that Lundrigan and Alexander were being "very sensitive" and were "crying to mama or to television."

When journalists asked him exactly what he was thinking as he made a "gesture of derision" during the exchange, Trudeau couldn't hide his exasperation.

"What is the nature of your thoughts ... when you say 'fuddle duddle' or something like that?" he asked the reporters.

According to CBC reporter Peter Zimonjic, reporting on a September 2020 incident in the House of Commons, a review of Hansard, the official record of parliamentary debates in Canada, "reveals that the F-word has been dropped in the Commons on two other occasions since January 2001." 

Three weeks after the "fuddle duddle" incident, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau married Margaret Sinclair. They are seen here at one of their first public appearances at a daylong maple sugar party near Montreal on Saturday, March 27, 1971. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

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