This is a column about a word. It’s a word that I cannot put in the text of the column itself, but if I am worth my salt as a writer, I should be able to maneuver around that little barrier.
Many years ago, comedian/wordsmith George Carlin performed a routine called “The Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television.” The “heavy seven,” he called them. To be sure, four of them are indeed “heavy” by anyone’s standards, and would be considered vulgar by just about everyone. Of the other three, one of them, a synonym of “bosoms” is just plain crude. Another word, slang for being “ticked off, ” is actually in common usage on television these days and really isn’t what I would call a dirty word.
When WBAI radio in New York played the Carlin routine on the air in 1973, they were taken to task in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was determined that the bit was, although indecent, not obscene. That decision lead to the current practice of allowing the use of certain words over the airwaves after a set time in the late evening. The heavy four mentioned above are out completely, but the “bosoms” synonym has been uttered a few times during prime time that I have heard, and the word for “ticked off” is all over the TV and radio, all the time.
Which brings me to my word. It is not what I would call a terribly pleasant word on its face. In fact, you wouldn’t want it on your face. It’s not, however, what I would call a dirty word. I have heard everyone from small children to one hundred old men use it. You, the reader, have used it, I can almost guarantee. Oh, sometimes you might drop your toast butter side down and say, “Shoot” but I can almost bet the farm that when you dropped the hammer on your toe, or slammed your finger in the door, it wasn’t “shoot” that you yelled. It was my word.
It’s not a sexual word, unless you are REALLY sick. It’s not anything that causes some kind of improper thoughts to form, nor is it a cruel word. When we hear something that we don’t agree with, we say, “That’s a lot of bull….” When we step in a pile of it, we often even say the word with two meanings in mind---one describing it and one of anger. Same word, two different uses. How bad can it be?
There is even a TV show on CBS called “$#*! My Dad Says”, starring William Shatner, who has been around a long time and who has appeared in some shows that are really a bunch of… well, you know. I’m not sure how the general public pronounces “$#*!” but I’m fairly certain the context leads them to say my word. I suspect that the use of it by CBS in their title is the first step to the word being more widely used, and that’s fine by me.
All kidding aside, words are just sounds we utter. Their meanings might make some of them objectionable, but my word isn’t one of them. I guess it’s a matter of “Freedom of Speech” as long as you don’t say certain words.