New Delhi, Aug. 31: Psst... looking for a nice fat book of filthy things to say when you get into a spat'
Try Unparliamentary Expressions, brought out by the Lok Sabha secretariat once every few years.
The last edition is several months old now, but the secretariat is still pitching for it in its daily bulletins for MPs.
Buy the “revised, updated and enlarged edition” and get 25 per cent off the regular price of Rs 850, the bulletin said recently.
Half the book is in English, half in Hindi and other languages. The entries are arranged alphabetically, under keywords.
So look under keyword “liar” for a sense of how the unparliamentary word has been used by legislators in India and abroad. There you find “big liar”, “biggest liar”, “blatant liar”, “bloody liar”, “complete liar”, “unmitigated liar” and “utter liar”. Not to forget the plain-vanilla “liar”.
You have complete expressions as well with the offending word.
In the Orissa Assembly, a member said: “The minister is a liar.” In Tasmania, one member told another: “You see you are such a little liar.”
These swear words and expressions have all been declared unparliamentary and expunged from the record of proceedings of the Constituent Assembly, Provisional Parliament, the first to the 13th Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislatures and legislatures in Commonwealth countries, including the British House of Commons.
The compendium is for a noble cause, of course. The preface says: “It is hoped that the parliamentarians, research scholars and all those interested in parliamentary studies will find it useful.”
For example, how else would you know that comparing a stretch of road to a sex symbol is not on' Not in South Rhodesia, at least. Someone was admonished there for saying: “It has more curves than Marilyn Monroe.”
A word of caution, though. Keywords in themselves are not unparliamentary. Context makes them so. Example: “communist” in the derogatory sense, in some legislatures, usually abroad.
Similarly, references to medication are bad only when they cast aspersions. As when a member asked in a New South Wales legislature: “Have you been taking your medication'”
And as when a Lok Sabha member said: “He requires medical examination.” Medical advice — “Take Valium” — has also been expunged.
There are straightforward slurs, too, promptly erased from the record by the Chair. Calling someone “mad” is not done. In the Lok Sabha, saying something like “he is full-mad person” is even worse. Replying in kind, too, is not allowed. Don’t say: “A mad person has called me mad.”
As the book shows, being clever doesn’t help. Struck off an Ontario legislature was this remark: “It is against the rules to call the minister a liar, but her nose is growing.”
That was a literary allusion to Pinocchio. Literary types have also been in trouble for calling fellow MPs “three musketeers” and the Chair “Thou too Brutus”.
Absolutely no liberties can be taken with the chairperson. Saying “You are not fair” to the Chair has been termed unparliamentary in the Lok Sabha. As has been an unsolicited opinion: “Chair has become a little bit partial.”
MPs must also learn to tread carefully when speaking of the judiciary. You don’t call the Chief Justice of India “too small a person” or comment on his colleagues thus: “The Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court lives in a centrally air-conditioned house.”
Things can get ugly in the House any time. But you can’t tell them to “shut your mouth”. Not even if you use the polite version: “Please shut up.”
And certainly not: “You fascists, sit down, you Nazis, sit down, you Hitlers.”
At times like these, a House can degenerate very easily into something else. But you can’t say that. MPs have been in trouble for calling the House a “mela”, “tamasha” and “zoological garden”.