Society

REASON TO LOVE OTTAWA #23: Because you can’t help but love saying ‘big swinging dicks’ and ‘fartcatchers’

Because politicos have helped the capital build a uniquely colourful LOCAL LEXICON.

How would you illustrate a "big swinging dick contest"? Illustration: Fred Sebastian

Big Swinging Dick Contest
Frontin’: It’s what the hip kids used to call putting up a wall of swagger to intimidate an opponent. It’s the stuff of poker games — and politics. And in 2007, when then mayor Larry O’Brien was under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police for his dealings with former candidate Terry Kilrea over allegations of influence peddling, O’Brien did a little frontin’ of his own. According to O’Brien, it was all just a misinterpreted bluster, or a “big swinging dick contest,” between the two opponents, as he put it so delicately.

Technically Beautiful
In 2001, a handful of trade and tourism groups put their heads together to come up with a tagline that promoted Ottawa as a good place to do business. Talk about decision by committee! The end result was a backhanded compliment that left some laughing and others reeling at the $32,000 ad-agency fee. The slogan is now shorthand for bureaucratic short-sightedness — and affirmation that we’re pretty, in the right light.

There is never a shortage of fartcatchers in a capital city. Illustration: Fred Sebastian

Fartcatcher
A staple of the satirical prankster rag Frank, the term referred to those on the Hill with nebulous job titles who seemed to spend most of their days trailing behind their ministers. Unsure of their duties, the magazine — which ceased publishing in 2008 — dubbed them fartcatchers, implying a certain namby-pamby, yes-man-ness to those lower on the totem pole of the Hill.

Land of Bedwetters
In March of last year, after being drowned out by protests at her planned U of O talk, obnoxious conservative newsmaker Ann Coulter complained about capital denizens’ low IQ and then proceeded to define the word Ottawa as “Indian for Land of Bedwetters.” At its worst, it sounds like bigotry; at its best, it’s sort of funny. And there’s something oddly honourable about being dissed by Ann Coulter.

Fuddle Duddle
Way back in 1971, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau was said to have mouthed the words “F–k off” at opposition MPs in the House of Commons. When pressed about his unparliamentary language, Trudeau told reporters he had said, “Fuddle duddle” — and it was noted in the Hansard records as such. The lasting legacy of the term is as an inside-voice version of the F-bomb and a launching point for the ongoing discussion about civility in the House. — Fateema Sayani

Read all 44 of Ottawa Magazine’s “Reasons to Love Ottawa” in the March/April edition. On newsstands now.

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