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    Off With the Wigs! World Weary Oddities of Parliaments

    Off With the Wigs! World Weary Oddities of Parliaments

    © AFP 2019 / Adrian Dennis
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    Parliaments across the world are filled with pomp and traditions reflecting hundreds of years of history, many of which are antiquated but nonetheless part of the order of the day. Here are a few of the oddities of the homes of democracy.

    Wigs Off

    The Speaker of the UK House of Commons has announced that clerks — who look after the business of parliament — should no longer wear wigs at the table in the chamber. They will also cease to wear court dress, but they will continue to wear gowns, so as not to become confused with members or other parliament staff.

    Members of UK parliament
    © Flickr / UK Parliament
    Members of UK parliament

    Snuffboxes

    In the US Senate, many members used to take snuff, long ago. A box of snuff was always kept on the vice president's table. The senators would step up to the vice president's table and take a pinch of snuff.

    After this proved irritating for non-snuff takers — and distracting for speakers — the black snuff boxes were henceforth secured to the walls. There are snuffboxes in the UK parliament too.

    Curtain Play

    In France, the main chamber of the National Assembly has two curtained areas at each end of the main chamber known as the "hemicycle." On crucial votes, MPs hide behind the curtains until the last minute to swing the vote.

    French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy
    French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy

    In 2009, when Nicholas Sarkozy was president, he lost a critical vote and pilloried the opposition for "backhand maneuvering."

    Door Closed

    A person known as Black Rod is sent from the UK House of Lords Chamber to the Commons Chamber to summon MPs to hear the Queen's Speech. Traditionally the door of the Commons is slammed in Black Rod's face to symbolize the Commons' independence. He then bangs three times on the door with the rod, after which the MPs talk loudly and follow Black Rod into the Lords to hear the Queen.

    Named and Shamed

    If a UK MP has disregarded the authority of the chair, or has "persistently and willfully obstructed the House by abusing its rules," he or she may be "named." The Speaker says "I name Mr. George White" (or whoever). Once agreed by the house, the MP must leave the chamber for five days — on first offense.

    Pipsqueak

    In the UK parliament, you are not allowed to call a fellow MP a hypocrite, a liar, pipsqueak, swine, rat, blackguard or tart. 

    Expression
    © Photo : Pixabay
    New Zealand has banned: "retardate worm", the "Idle vaporings of a mind diseased" and "hypnotized rabbits".

    Bean Soup

    The US Senate always has bean soup is available on the dining room menu, dating back to the early twentieth century, after a request from either Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho, or Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota.
    © Photo : Pixabay
    The US Senate always has bean soup is available on the dining room menu, dating back to the early twentieth century, after a request from either Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho, or Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota.

    One recipe involves dried navy beans, four quarts of hot water, smoked ham hocks and a chopped onion.

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    tradition, parliamentarians, parliament, culture, UK Parliament, French parliament, House of Lords, House of Commons, US Senate, Queen Elizabeth II, United States, United Kingdom
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