The fuddle duddle incident in Canadian political history occurred on February 16, 1971 when Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau was alleged to have spoken or at least mouthed unparliamentary language in the House of Commons, causing a minor scandal. Trudeau mentioned the words "fuddle duddle" in an ambiguous answer to questions about what he may or may not have said in Parliament.
In February 1971, opposition MPs accused Trudeau of having mouthed the words "fuck off" at them in the House of Commons. When pressed by television reporters on the matter, Trudeau would only freely admit having moved his lips, answering the question, "What were you thinking, when you moved your lips?" by rhetorically asking in return "What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say 'fuddle duddle' or something like that?" Thus, it remained unclear what Trudeau actually mouthed.
Origin of the phrase
There is a popular misconception that "fuddle duddle" was coined as a euphemism by the Hansard reporter who prepared the official transcript of Trudeau's words for that parliamentary session. However, Hansard did not record the exchange. In any case, Trudeau used it during a media scrum in the immediate aftermath of the parliamentary incident itself, leaving little time for a Hansard transcript to be consulted or even prepared.
There is an example of the phrase's use in the early 1940s, in "Mother Finds a Body," by Gypsy Rose Lee: "...when [he] asks me where I was on the night of so-and-so, I'll tell him to go fuddle his duddle."
An unofficial transcript of the CBC clip is as follows:
- John Lundrigan: The question I raised to the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada was that the government should introduce some new programs to lift the unemployment burden over and above what has been announced since last March. The Prime Minister interrupted me in a way that you wouldn't expect on the street, by mouthing a four-letter obscenity which I've challenged him to verbally place on the record and I don't think he's done so since. And I certainly didn't expect this kind of behaviour from my Prime Minister of Canada, having worshipped and really adored men like John Diefenbaker and Mr Pearson and a lot of other people in the past. This to me is really inexcusable and, well I guess we're just going to have to grin and bear it, along with the Lapalme workers.
- Lincoln Alexander: He mouthed two words, the first word of which started with F, and the second word of which started with O. And he said it twice to John Lundrigan, the member from Gander—Twillingate, and he also said the same thing to me. Now I think that we've reached a point where this type of conduct, it's not only disgraceful but it's unacceptable, and I tried to bring that point home. Now of course the Prime Minister wants to split hairs and states that he didn't say it, but when he mouthed it, it was readily recognizable by me as to what he said and what he meant.
- Pierre Trudeau: Well what are they, lip readers or something?
- Press: Did you…?
- Pierre Trudeau: Of course I didn't say anything. I mean that's a…
- Press: Did you mouth anything?
- Pierre Trudeau: I moved my lips and I used my hands in a gesture of derision, yes. But I didn't say anything. If these guys want to read lips and they want to see something into it, you know that's their problem. I think they're very sensitive. They come in the House and they make all kinds of accusations, and because I smile at them in derision they come stomping out and what, go crying to momma or to television that they've been insulted or something?
- [later in the press conference]
- Pierre Trudeau: Well, it's a lie, because I didn't say anything.
- Press: Sir, did you mouth it?
- Pierre Trudeau: [visibly annoyed] What does “mouth” mean?
- Press: Move your lips.
- Pierre Trudeau: Move your lips? Yes I moved my lips!
- Press: In the words you've been quoted as saying?
- Pierre Trudeau: [half smile] No.
- Press: (After murmurs by other press) What were you thinking… when you moved your lips?
- Pierre Trudeau: What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say “fuddle duddle” or something like that? God, you guys…! [walks away]
In popular culture
There was, in 1971–72, a short-lived satirical magazine called Fuddle Duddle, which aspired to be the Canadian equivalent of Mad magazine; however it lasted only five issues before publication ceased.
At least two songs related to the incident were released as record singles. "Fuddle Duddle" by Antique Fair was written by Greg Hambleton and released on the Tuesday label through Quality Records (catalogue GH107X). "Do the Fuddle Duddle" written by Gary Alles, performed by The House of Commons and released on GRT Records (catalogue 1233-04).
- "Hansard FAQs". CBC News In Depth: Canadian government. October 27, 2006. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- Peter Sypnowich. "Fuddle duddle". Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- Lee, Gypsy Rose (1942). Mother Finds a Body. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing Company. p. 188.
- "Guardians of the North - You've Got to Be Kidding". Government of Canada. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- "Industry cashes in on Trudeau mime act". RPM. 1971-03-06. p. 18.
- "Antique Fair". The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia. Jam!/Canoe. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- "House of Commons". The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia. Jam!/Canoe. Retrieved 2009-12-30.
- Thibaudeau, Guy (March 13, 1981). "Laurentian Hills Echos Quebec Skiing History". The Montreal Gazette. p. 27. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
- "CBC Archives: Fuddle Duddle 1971" (video). CBCtv. YouTube. (also at "Trudeau's 'fuddle duddle' incident" (video). CBC.)