7 Words

With the recent death of one of my heroes, George Carlin, I am thinking about words. George Carlin was a master of the English language. Check out his performances on Youtube to hear his flawless delivery. He was most famous for his piece on the 7 words you can't say on television. He recited these words like poetry, like a song. He made them approachable, friendly. He helped us to understand that the only power they hold is the power we invest in them from our own feelings about the human body and it's functions.

I remember my mom's technique with “bad” words. She would arrive at the word she herself had obviously chosen and either whisper or spell it. How odd! Her manner gave the word such mystical power! We all knew what she was saying, what exactly did the whispering or spelling do?

By the time my own children were growing up and attending school in inner city Providence, they heard every word, every day. Not that there weren't people, mostly the church-going folks, who would ostentatiously shush anyone who blasphemed in their hearing. I had by that time become a George Carlin convert, a relaxed Christian, and
a rather clumsy, do-it-yourself homeowner, so they heard a few obscenities and blasphemies from my very own mouth.

I don't advocate the use of these words by or in the hearing of children who are too young to have a good command of the English language. Both of my children understood that the use of such words in public places and outside of one's peer group must be weighed carefully. They never used the words in front of their paternal grandparents; a minister and his wife. My children are both articulate, intelligent people with large vocabularies. They also understood that those 7 or so words, which seem to have such power over so many people, are no more or less powerful than any other word. And that giving them power is indulging in a kind of Victorian bowdlerism that makes hypocrites and cowards of us all.

So thank you, Mr Carlin, for your authenticity and wit. Thank you for always urging us to take a fresh look at our words and our world.

And the next time I stub my toe, or hammer my thumb instead of the intended nail, after everything else I say, I'll thank you once again.

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