I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on WORDMASTER:
remembering a comedian who took a serious interest in language. George
Carlin died of heart failure at a hospital in Santa Monica, California,
on June twenty-second.
RS: The stand-up comedian, author and
actor was seventy-one years old. He was known for his irreverent humor
and was a counterculture figure of the nineteen seventies. Now, in
memory of George Carlin, we play a WORDMASTER segment from July of
AA: George Carlin can say some
outrageous things -- years ago the U.S. Supreme Court found his "seven
filthy words" monolgue indecent.
RS: But when he stopped at the National Press Club in Washington not long ago, George Carlin had other words to say.
CARLIN: "I'm not here to advance any political, social or environmental
cause. I am, in fact, blessedly agenda-free. I don't want to save the
river. I don't want to save the bay. I don't want to save the canyon,
the whale, the wetlands, the rain forest, or the flying, spotted dwarf
something-or-other. I don't want to save the children, above all
[laughter and applause]. Frankly, I don't care about many of those
things. Between you and me, those battles were lost a long time ago."
Dressed in black with his hair in a pony tail, George Carlin kept the
Washington press corps laughing with his observations on how the
politicians and lawyers in Washington speak.
AA: He says they use a lot of obscure terms and phrases to avoid saying anything substantive.
CARLIN: "They don't actually say things. They indicate them: 'As I
indicated yesterday, and as the president indicated to me.' But
sometimes they don't indicate; they suggest: 'Let me suggest, that as I
indicated yesterday ... I haven't determined that yet.' See, they don't
decide; they determine. If it's a really serious matter, they make a
judgment: 'I haven't made a judgment on that yet. When the hearings are
concluded, I will make a judgment or I might make an assessment. I'm
not sure; I haven't determined that yet. But when I do, I'll advise
"They don't tell, they advise: 'I advised him that I had
made a judgment. Thus far, he hasn't responded.' They don't answer;
they respond: 'He hasn't responded to my initiative.' An initiative is
an idea that isn't going anywhere [laughter]."
RS: George Carlin added that when legislation is delayed or a project is taking too long, some more terms come into use.
CARLIN: "That's a big activity here in Washington: proceeding. They're
always 'proceeding' or 'moving forward.' A lot of that goes on:
'Senator, have you solved that problem?' 'Well, we're moving forward on
"And when they're not moving forward, they're moving
something else forward, such as the process: 'We have to move the
process forward so we can implement the provisions of the initiative in
order to meet these challenges.' No one has problems anymore --
'challenges.' That's why we need people who can make the tough
decisions. Tough decisions like, 'How much soft money can I expect to
collect in exchange for my core values?'"
AA: George Carlin says political scandal or wrongdoing calls for yet another set of euphemisms.
CARLIN: "When they're in trouble, their explanations usually begin
simply with words like miscommunication: 'What did you do wrong,
senator?' 'Well, it was a miscommunication.' Or, 'I was quoted out of
context.' Better yet, and more ironic, 'They twisted my words.' Such a
nice touch. A person who routinely spends his days torturing the
language complains 'they twisted my words [laughter].'
as the controversy continues to heat up, he moves to his next level of
complaint: 'The whole thing has been blown out of proportion.' It's
always the whole thing. Apparently no one has ever claimed that only a
small portion of something was blown out of proportion. It has to be
the whole thing."
AA: That was a WORDMASTER segment from July
of nineteen ninety-nine. George Carlin died last week, just days after
the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that it would
award him the eleventh annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
The Kennedy Center, in Washington, plans to go ahead with the award
ceremony this November, now as a tribute. And that's WORDMASTER for
this week. Archives of our segments are at voanews.com/wordmaster. With
Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.