By now, everyone knows that George Carlin died a few days ago. He has been praised far and wide, rightly so. He had a marvelous sense of humor, but so do thousands of lesser comics. What set Carlin apart was his precision with language and a knack for spotting stupid euphemisms.
He is remembered for the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV” routine and the ensuing controversy. It certainly was a flash point in a social revolution. And Carlin was labeled a “potty mouth” and dismissed by the powers that be. But he was not saying “dirty words” just for the shock value — other legendary comedians were far more guilty of that sin — Eddie Murphy comes to mind. Carlin was using language in a very different way — a very “Virginia Satir” way.
I recall one of his routines about airline jargon, mainly “a near miss.” The punch line to the joke was something like, “Damn, that thing nearly missed us.” Of course, in reality it is not a “near miss,” bur rather a “near crash.” However, the Flacks (what PR types call themselves) figured out a long time ago, that you could talk in polite company about horrible things if you gave them polite names.
This practice has been elevated to an art form by the Cheney-Bush administration. For instance, The Patriot Act is the legal equivalent of publicly urinating on the Constitution and its hallowed symbol, the Almighty Flag. And all the talk about National Security??? This bunch of knuckleheads is obsessed with National Insecurity. That is all they ever talk about. What about “Neo Conservatives?” A total misnomer if there ever was one. There is nothing new in their ideology — Hitler and crew expressed it quite clearly and succinctly in the 1930s. There is nothing Conservative about wanting to destroy the Constitution and turn the USA into The Fourth Reich.
Body fluids and sexual practices are not dirty. At most, the words we use to describe them are crude. But when some jerk commits treason and figures out a way to call it patriotism, that is true obscenity.
Maybe some other comedian will come along who has Carlin’s skill with words? Or maybe some news person will have the balls to question the way politicians use language?