FIDDLESTICKS!" fussed Manitoba NDP member of Parliament Pat Martin when the federal Conservative government led by (expletive deleted) Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced closure on debate over the budget.
Actually, Martin did not say fiddlesticks. He said a word that is more commonly heard in his constituency than that antiquarianism and which is more familiar across the country as well, even if you will never read it in the hallowed pages of the family-friendly Winnipeg Free Press or almost any other newspaper in the country, or for that matter, on any TV or radio news show, where skirting around it is a little more problematic.
Imagine (these exercises in civil etiquette are not always easy) Peter Mansbridge on CBC's The National newscast solemnly intoning "Pat Martin, New Democratic MP for Winnipeg Centre, said today 'This is a expletive disgrace,' and then tweeted to a voter who disagreed with him 'Expletive you!' "
Broadcast media, of course, have their own way of getting around quoting common language: They, like the print media, sometimes get so bold as to say "Pat Martin used the f-word" or the s-word or the n-word or the c-word or the x-word (don't ask; I am not authorized to tell you what that one actually is.)
Most people wouldn't be surprised that Pat Martin might swear. Most people swear either routinely -- come by the Free Press newsroom sometime and eavesdrop till your ears turn blue and drop off -- or occasionally, under situations of great duress, such as when you hit your thumb with a hammer. Ouch! is a word only used in family-friendly circumstances.
There is a certain irony, however, in this situation. It is not just because of Martin's obvious comfort and familiarity with the basic obscenities of the English language. Rather it is because the New Democrat is an outspoken proponent of decorous behaviour in public discourse.
Perhaps he thinks that should only apply in the House of Commons during Question Period, although even there his language is often intemperate, even if it isn't obscene. But that's politics and we're used to that. And this is the free press or, more particularly the Free Press, where you will never actually read what Pat Martin actually said -- we blush easily. "Expletive you!" you say, thinking you have a right to know. "Fiddlesticks," say we.
...by Tom Oleson