By George (Carlin), The Internet Has Tourette’s
WARNING: This is the Internet, not TV, where seven words people aren’t allowed to say on TV are permitted. In honor of that, and of recently, well, dead1 "counter-culture" comedian George Carlin, the seven words you can’t say on TV will be said because mincing words would be anathema to Carlin’s life. Plus it gives us an excuse. If dirty words in general offend you, better click out now, because these seven are top shelf, man.
In the AP’s profile2 of George Carlin, you’ll not find the seven infamous words, not that you’d necessarily want to. In short, even though the article is on the Internet, where free speech reigns, the AP sort of wussed out on us. Mentioning them wouldn’t have been out of line, off-target, unprofessional or gratuitous3 considering those exact seven words, in that order, appeared in front of the Supreme Court in 1978 for a landmark decision that affected broadcasting thereon out.
It was that case, the Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, that solidified the FCC’s power to regulate decency over the airwaves. It stemmed from a radio broadcast of Carlin’s "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine over New York airwaves. The words at issue, as Carlin enumerated, are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. Added later4 were fart, turd, and twat.
A lot of thought went into whether we should mention the unmentionable words, whether they should be littered with asterisks or censored in some other way. But to do so would be mock the man’s point: Words are filthy because people make them that way, not because the words themselves are filthy, and it’s silly to pretend that nobody says them. It’s also silly just to link out to the words in case you get the guts to look at them, or to insult your intelligence with asterisks as if either you couldn’t make the words out then and wonder they might be, or as if a little star would shield you from the discomfort of their existence.
Unpleasant truths were sort of Carlin’s shtick, and nobody was safe. When I was 20, I went to see his show. I squirmed a bit at some of the content (I was more sensitive and sheltered then), but became really incensed when he went after guys that wore Docker pants. I happened to like my Dockers.
Later, I laughed anyway, and I suppose we’ll take our place among the four other publications on Google News that had the guts to publish the words in honor of Carlin, in honor of free speech.
The authority set in place by Carlin’s "filthy words" was tested again in 1997, eleven years ago this week, actually, when the Supreme Court overturned legislation extending the FCC’s indecency authority to the Internet. Happy you’re allowed to say what you want on the Internet? Thank the seven justices who thought you should be able to.
Content producers on the Internet have gone about honoring this idea, spurred by Carlin’s death, in their own way. Carlin-related searches and seven-word-related searches dominate Google’s Hot Trends list this morning. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan investigated, as you might expect, on a more specific keyword word level:
So of those seven famous words, which were most popular according to Google Trends? I checked them all, and only two of them showed substantial search volume, the F-word and tits.
I’m not going to block out saying "tits" because as any Carlin fan knows, it doesn’t belong on the list because it’s such as "friendly sounding word."
Of course, those two words are popular every day on the Internet. It’s those seven words in that particular order that may give some insight. Google Trends, however, could not offer any on that sequence.
That doesn’t mean the sequence isn’t popular. In fact, that particular sequence of words has become a tribute, a chorus, a chant, a we-get-what-you-were-trying-to-say-George. Bloggers are titling their posts with them. Twitterers, too, because of the 140-character limit, are sending them up5 to Carlin as is, without explanation or (not much at least) shame, in honor of the man’s impact on thought about free speech in a free society.
And isn’t that funny?
Here’s a link to some Carlin videos on YouTube, and a few of my favorite quotes:
I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.
If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.
Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.
By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.
At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.
Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.
Electricity is really just organized lightning.
Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.
Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.
I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.
I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.
If we could just find out who’s in charge, we could kill him.
Not only do I not know what’s going on, I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I did.
The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
The status quo sucks.
- Carlin wasn’t one for niceties of language; he once called language a "tool for concealing the truth." In light of that, words like "deceased," "passed on," or "no longer with us," usually intended to make people more comfortable with something awful, are replaced with the cold hard one syllable word that says what it means. George Carlin’s dead. The end.
- No links will be provided to an AP story because the AP isn’t a big fan of linking these days. One of these days they may say you can’t point at a story in print, either.
- In short, relevancy would outweigh the embarrassment your grandmother might feel if one actually used them at her house.
- The original routine included just those seven words, but after fan feedback, Carlin added three more, which were also broadcast in the 1973 radio incident.
- Or down, or over, or across, or perhaps to where they’ll get stuck on the roof.