Warning: if words offend you, don’t read this. George Carlin has passed. Shit!

That cocksucker went and died on us! After three non-fatal heart attacks, outliving his first wife, getting arrested with Lenny Bruce, battling addiction, and the Supreme Court, is dead.

I am now officially old. Fuck!

George Carlin is dead. He of the 7 dirty words. When we listened to the Class Clown album (those were the things before CDs…) we were titillated, not just because of the dirty words, but because he struck a nerve. We were teenagers then, and who more than teens feel the power of pushing limits? (Okay, maybe toddlers, but who the hell would let their toddlers listen to George Carlin?) Plus, he used the word “dirty.” Even grown ups’ ears perk up when they hear “dirty”.

Carlin once said “I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” He often was too challenging for audiences, but I guess that’s the line he was looking for. He mostly railed at our collective stupidity and bemoaned how we are basically doomed by it. I’m okay with that. His wry challenge in the choice of seven was no doubt deliberate; intended to invoke the 7 deadly sins, just to wheedle the intolerant among us. It’s on us to miss it.

Looking at the words he challenged us with back in the 70’s is kind of funny. The case went to the Supreme Court, helping them to define “indecent” versus “obscene.” Most of the words certainly wouldn’t cause the controversy now that they did then. One of them was used so many times by KG in the minutes after the Celtics historic win, you have to go to original Tivo to make any sense of what his joyous gibberish actually was about…otherwise you pretty much just hear bleeps.

Whether you’re a fan of obscenity or not, a free speech friend or foe, at some point most of us have been moved by the power of words. Those who would ban some words, or burn books, or limit speech are afraid of something much larger than any one word, or any seven could incite.

Those who would ban words are afraid of critical thought. They fear what might be unleashed if we were left to our own devices, without their “protection.” Why should our ability to decide for ourselves which words are good and which are bad be so threatening? It’s not the word, it’s the power we have to decide how to use them, who to wield them against, to analyze who benefits from how things are allowed or proscribed, who gains the most from setting a definition…the reaction to George Carlin was equal in proportion to the fear he provoked by forcing us to acknowledge the power.

Four of the seven words are included in this post: the ones I left out: Tits, Piss, and Cunt. Behold the power of words: I wrote them, you just read them, neither of us imploded, became homicidal, or turned seditious.

And, bonus round here: you can tell me if this offended you! I can tell you to go piss off! Or, we might have a dialog about it! We might come to understand each other better at the end of it, even if we don’t agree. That, my friend, is the power the censors try to suppress. It will never work. Never has.

Rest in Peace, George. It was a long, sometimes hard road you chose, but we’re a better bunch of motherfuckers for it. Thank you.

5 Responses to “Warning: if words offend you, don’t read this. George Carlin has passed. Shit!”

  1. 1 fft5305 June 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Sorry. As soon as I read those words, I committed murder, committed treason, then imploded. I’m better now. Still sad about Mr. Carlin’s passing, though. Some of his stuff made me incredibly uncomfortable. Some of his stuff made me laugh so hard I cried. Some did both. Regardless of whether you enjoyed his particular brand of humor, it is undeniable that he, along with a very few others, made a lasting impact on the face of comedy. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, George.

  2. 2 jacqueline June 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    If I hadn’t been so tired, I probably could have worked the rest of them in…it is sad, isn’t it?

  3. 3 steve wheeler June 25, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Hi, the other night Larry King talked to some big time comedians who called him the master. He was a voice os sanity for a lot of people. And funny too.
    I had to say something. No doubt he’s laughing even harder now at everyone’s sadness.

  4. 4 jacqueline1230 June 25, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Steve, welcome! Did you see the NYT Op-Ed piece by Seinfeld? It was oddly un-Seinfeldian. I attribute it to his authentic stunned sadness. So many people have been writing tributes. He’s somewhere (I think he said stuck on a roof, that’s what the Frisbeetarians believe about death) laughing, I’m sure.


  1. 1 Words What are Words Worth? « The Leather District Gourmet Trackback on June 24, 2008 at 7:35 am

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  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

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