New Zealand Has Rules About “Unparliamentary Language”

In New Zealand, parliamentary debates can be heated, but there are rules about what members can and can’t say. “Unbecoming” language, insults, and accusations of dishonesty are banned. These concepts change over time and the definition of "unparliamentary language" is constantly evolving. Beginning in 1933, the language deemed to be avoided included terms like “blow-fly minded,” “financial Frankenstein,” and “shrewd old bird.” A mere 30 years later, saying someone had the “energy of a tired snail returning home from a funeral” was considered inappropriate. By 1980, it was off-limits to say things like “Merve the Swerve,” “Quigley Wiggly,” and “Fascist dictator.” Now, in 2020, you’d better not be caught saying things like “dysfunctional geriatric,” “hypnotized rabbits,” or “mealy mouthed.” The slam that deserves an Academy Award for creativity goes to Member of Parliament Frank Langstone (pictured), who served from 1946-1949. During a particularly heated debate, he was heard to utter the phrase, "His brains could revolve inside a peanut shell for a thousand years without touching the sides.”