Modern-Day Dirty Words in Memory of Carlin

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Comedian George Carlin, who died Sunday at age 71, is often remembered for his "Seven Dirty Words" routine — a monologue in which he riffed on the seven words the Supreme Court ruled could not be uttered on the air. What would today's list of dirty words include?


When George Carlin died this week at the age of 71, every obituary remembered his "Seven Dirty Words" routine, a monologue in which he riffed on the seven words the U.S. Supreme Court ruled could not be uttered on the air without inviting a fine. We won't repeat them. The essential line of the routine is that war, cruelty and bigotry are obscene, not (bleep) (bleep) (bleep). I interviewed George Carlin a few times. He was tough. He was used to working in big name, high-priced show rooms and concert halls. Saw no reason to give up some of his best material in a mere interview.

So this week, to commemorate George Carlin, we offer a few words or phrases that aren't curses, exactly, but I'd just as soon avoid them. Think of them as epithets for a new age.

Synergy. Sounds like an oil company. "Synergy, keeping America on the move," or "Synergy, it wasn't our oil spill." Not a noun but means shared interest leading to action. I wonder how many of the mergers among major companies that turned out to be such bad ideas might have been avoided if executives had looked for ways in which, say, a car company and a cigar company could actually help each other rather than for some magic dust what traders call "synergy."

Paradigm. That sounds like a defense contractor. "The executives of Paradigm were subpoenaed today." It means example, as in, the Cubs are an example of a losing team. Come to think of it, I prefer "paradigm." Somehow it's easier to take in Greek.

"Impact" as a verb. "Friend" as a verb. Why turn nouns into verbs? They were so happy as nouns. They were just minding their business when someone decided they ought to be dragged out by their hair and stretched into verbs. Why verbiaze(ph) nouns?

False positive and false negative. As far as I can tell, they both mean that a test result is wrong. Is a test result never wrong these days, just an alternative finding? How many people have been told that the test they thought showed one thing was actually a false positive, and had to rack their brains and shuffle to a dictionary before they knew if they were supposed to be pleased or depressed?

Life coach. When you pay for that kind of advice, it's from a psychotherapist. When it's free, it's from a friend. When you don't want or like it, it's from some busybody.

Customer Satisfaction Department. Is there anything you are less likely to receive from a call there?

Offline, as in, let's talk offline, when people really mean, let's talk privately or even romantically.

(Singing): My funny girl offline, sweet comic girl offline, you make me smile when Wi-Fi is down.

You get the idea.

(Soundbite of song "My Funny Valentine")

Mr. CHET BAKER: (Singing) Is your figure less than green. Is your mouth full of weed. When you open it to speak. Are you smiling. But don't change your hair for me...

SIMON: Chet Baker. And this is NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.