“Fuddle duddle”

On February 15, 1971, during a particularly heated Question Period, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, under attack from Opposition MPs, mouthed (but did not say aloud) what his opponents understood to be the words “Fuck You”,1 but which the PM himself averred in a subsequent explanation to have been “Fuddle Duddle”.2

As the event took place before the televising of Canada’s House of Commons proceedings, there is no film or video proving who was right. However, the term “fuddle duddle” was previously unknown until Trudeau claimed it. It soon, however, became a popular – and uniquely Canadian – verbal refrain and a kind of cheeky slogan for Trudeau – both for his detractors and his admirers.

For the former, it was proof of Trudeau’s arrogance and his contempt for democratic institutions and, in their view, the public. For the latter, it was more evidence of his insouciance, his flair and his lack of pomp or stuffiness. In its way as vivid as Trudeau’s more conventionally eloquent refrain of a “Just Society”, “Fuddle Duddle” became indelibly associated with the man and the era.

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