Marty Beckerman On George Carlin

Marty Beckerman, author of forthcoming Disinformation book Dumbocracy has his own take on a George Carlin obituary:

Every obituary for George Carlin will cite his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV” routine in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. The monologue led to Carlin’s arrest and a 1978 Supreme Court obscenity case. (Carlin admitted that he was “perversely … proud of” the federal legal drama that his dirty words caused.)

But Carlin’s comedy was not simply about dirty words; it was about the English language, and our collective fear of it. He used more expletives than Howard Stern, but his obsession was linguistics, not lasciviousness. As Carlin told CNN in 2004, “[I]f I hadn’t chosen the career of being a performer, I think linguistics would have been a natural area that I’d have loved-to teach it, probably … Language has always fascinated me.”

He was especially fascinated with the blunting of language for comfort’s sake. Carlin ridiculed our watering-down of sexual descriptions and ethnic categories, not to mention our mourning clichés, all of which he believed were the real-life manifestations of George Orwell’s “Newspeak,” utilized to obscure reality, numb the mind, and discourage criticism. As much as Carlin loathed theology, war, greed, and hypersensitivity, he was most disgusted when religous puritans, the military, corporations, and P.C. “classroom liberals” mangled the language for the purpose of soothing the masses. When I saw Carlin perform in the ‘90s, the biggest laugh of the night came from his observation that “the unlikely event of a water landing,” discussed in every preflight safety lecture, sounds suspiciously like “crashing into the fucking ocean.”

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