In her latest post for Strong Language, Nancy Friedman enlightened us with some happenings of shit, which excremental theme Ben Yagoda fittingly continued in his print on bullshit. Some months back, Nancy also covered shit‘s execratory counterpart, piss, while Iva Cheung had the floor with some very unparliamentary language, including an instance of pissant (see Section 12).
For Strong Language standards, pissant is piddly. Yet the word nonetheless struck me as a curious little vulgar vermin that’s not yet crawled around these pages, though the site’s very own James Harbeck treated the word similarly some years back, which I discovered – like a pissant – just as I was finishing this post.
Piddly or repeat aside, it’s one of the (rare) times you’d actually be excused for confusing etymology with entomology, to the relief of many word historians.
Legislators in governments based on the Westminster system enjoy parliamentary privilege, which means that, while in the House, they can speak their minds without the fear of being sued for slander. But to retain some modicum of decorum during debates, the Speaker of the House has the authority to rein in politicians who use language deemed unparliamentary, asking foul-mouthed lawmakers to withdraw their comments or face discipline.
This post is the first of a series that takes you on a tour of unparliamentary language in the Commonwealth. Some examples are insults thrown about by Australia’s “honourable members,” most of which are relatively tame by Strong Language standards, whereas others are a bit more meta, coming from legislative discussions about unseemly language itself. (The lack of quotes from certain states is more an indication of hard-to-search Hansards rather than a high standard of politeness.) Continue reading