Freedom’s Curse - Why Washington’s crusade against swearing on the airwaves is f*cked up
The FCC claimed that “even when the speaker does not intend a sexual meaning, a substantial part of the community … will understand the word as freighted with an offensive sexual connotation.” A brief filed earlier this year by the solicitor general in defense of the commission’s position quoted from my book The Stuff of Thought as follows: “If you’re an English speaker, you can’t hear [words such as the F-Word] without calling to mind what they mean to an implicit community of speakers, including the emotions that cling to them.” In fact, the words elided in the brief were “nigger or cunt or fucking,” and the context was an explanation of why people are offended “when an outsider refers to an African American as a nigger, or a woman as a cunt, or a Jewish person as a fucking Jew.” I was certainly not arguing that when listeners hear “It’s not so fucking simple,” their minds turn to thoughts of copulation!
On the contrary, I noted that over time, taboo words relinquish their literal meanings and retain only a coloring of emotion, and then just an ability to arouse attention. This progression explains why many speakers are unaware that sucker, sucks, bites, and blows originally referred to fellatio, or that a jerk was a masturbator. It explains why Close the fucking door, What the fuck?, Holy Fuck!, and Fuck you! violate all rules of English syntax and semantics—they presumably replaced Close the damned door, What in Hell?, Holy Mary!, and Damn you! when religious profanity lost its zing and new words had to be recruited to wake listeners up..
And hey, there is even a George Carlin video thrown in for good measure, finishing the piece with:
Take Carlin’s [Seven words you can't say on television] monologue. Carlin mentioned the word fuck not to describe sexual activities, nor to shock his audience. He mentioned it to show how people use taboo words and to advance the argument that the government should not regulate them. The ruling that restricted his language restricted public criticism of the ruling itself—mocking the very rationale for free speech.Fuck that!