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  • Paul Anthony Jones

Unparliamentary language

(n.) words and phrases officially deemed unsuitable for use inside the British House of Commons

the palace of westminster and houses of parliament on the thames in london

A list of words officially deemed “unparliamentary language” by the British House of Commons proved popular on HH this week: here’s a bit more about them.

The British Parliament operates under a tight and, in some instances, fairly arcane set of rules that prohibits everything from the wearing of suits of armour in the Chamber to the use of fellow Members’ names (all parliamentary comments, ultimately, have to be directed to “the honourable member” for each constituency, or words to that effect).

According to Parliament’s official rules, “unparliamentary language” is also banned—by which the rules prohibit any language that “breaks the rules of politeness” in the House of Commons. Anyone who uses such language will be admonished by the Speaker of the House, and asked to withdraw their comments or else risk being removed or suspended from the house.

Among the (otherwise extremely useful) words on the banned list are the likes of liar, traitor and hypocrite. But as we mentioned on Twitter this week, Parliament has such a lengthy history that the full list also includes a number of prize archaisms like pipsqueak, wart, swine, blackguard, guttersnipe, and stoolpigeon.

It’s also against the rules to call anyone a bastard, an ignoramus, an idiot and a hooligan, to accuse anyone of speaking falsehoods or of being drunk, or—as the Labour MP for Bolsover Dennis Skinner found out in 2016, of calling anyone “dodgy”.


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