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July 18, 1999 - George Carlin - 2002-02-01

INTRO: Wordmasters Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble put some humor into the obsure -- and often misunderstood -- language of official Washington with guidance from a popular American comedian.

AA: George Carlin can say some outrageous things -- years ago the US 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.


"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 rainforest, or the flying, spotted dwarf something-or-other. I don't want to save the children, above all. (laughter & Applause) frankly, I don't care about many of those things. Between you and me, those battles were lost a long time ago."

RS: Dressed in black with his hair in a pony tail, George Carlin kept the Washington press corps -- including VOA's Keming Kuo -- 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.


"They don't actually say things. They indicate them: 'as I indicated yesterday, and as the president indicated to me . . . ' Sometimes they don't indicate; they suggest: 'let me suggest, as I indicated yesterday . . . I haven't determined that yet.' 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. When the hearings have 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 you. ' 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 intiative . . . ' 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:


"That's a big activity 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 that. ' 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.


"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] Then, 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 a small portion of something was blown out of proportion. It has to be the whole thing."

RS: That's comedian George Carlin, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington. He was in town promoting the paperback edition of his book "Brain Droppings," a collection of humorous euphemisms.

AA: You can listen to Wordmaster each week at this same time. We welcome your questions or comments. Our e-mail address is And our postal address is VOA Wordmaster, Washington DC 29547 USA.

RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.