GUY RAZ, host:
Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.
Danvers, Massachusetts, has known persecution and authoritarianism before. The small town was at the center of the Salem witch trials in the 1690s. When locals petitioned King George for a town charter, the English sovereign rejected it and wrote back, the king unwilling.
This week, another unwilling administrator dealt a blow to a certain population of Danvers. Thomas Murray, principal of Danvers High School banned this word:
(Soundbite of cartoon)
ROAD RUNNER: Meep, meep.
RAZ: That's right, the word meep. That was the Road Runner. The word is also the sum total of the Muppet Beaker's entire vocabulary.
(Soundbite of Beaker meeping)
RAZ: Mike Spiewak is a senior at Danvers High School and he helped popularize the seemingly innocuous word, and he's on the line with us now.
Mr. MIKE SPIEWAK (Senior, Danvers High School): Hi.
RAZ: Why are students at Danvers using the word meep?
Mr. SPIEWAK: Well, it started off as, you know, just being a little joke between friends.
RAZ: Well, did you pick it up from Beaker or the Road Runner?
Mr. SPIEWAK: No. Actually, my friend Alex, he picked it up on Xbox LIVE. He was in a party with a couple of kids playing Call of Duty last year. One of the kids that were in the party, you know, he said meep and, you know, Alex picked it up and we started using it.
RAZ: So, what are a few examples of how you would use the word meep?
Mr. SPIEWAK: Well, you can just say meep being a one-word sentence. You can say how the meep are you? Shut the meep up.
RAZ: Now, that sounds like a substitute for another word, a not-so-friendly word that some of our listeners might be familiar with.
Mr. SPIEWAK: Yeah, correct. It could, you know, you could replace meep with an F-bomb so that way you're not swearing. But that's not usually how we would use it; we'd just say it as a one-word sentence. And when the school told us we were unable to use this word and there would be consequences about it, kids have started using the word not knowing where it came from, why we were using it, what it means in protest of the schools telling us that we couldn't use it.
RAZ: Now, we tried to call your principal but we couldn't get a hold of him. He told your local paper, the Salem News, that it was more than just the use of the word, that it was also about the way students were behaving. Why do you think he banned the word?
Mr. SPIEWAK: We used to stand in front of this teacher's room and we would use it, you know, meep, meep, whatever, when, you know, we all came into the school in the morning. We were asked to move, we were asked to stop using the word. More kids began using it, interrupting his classroom time during the school day, and he just felt that, you know, it needed to stop.
RAZ: Well, that sounds like a pretty reasonable request. I mean, if kids were doing it in the middle of class, you know, the guy was getting annoyed.
Mr. SPIEWAK: Right.
RAZ: So, you don't have any problem with the ban?
Mr. SPIEWAK: I personally don't. I think it's unfair that they banned a word that's not even a real word.
RAZ: So, despite all of these problems, are you guys still meeping?
Mr. SPIEWAK: Absolutely. We mostly use it out of school now. So, you know, when we text each other, when we call each other. So, that's the only time we really use it. But, you know, some of us still use it in school every so often.
RAZ: Mike Spiewak is a meeping senior from Danvers High School.
Mike, thanks for your time.
Mr. SPIEWAK: You're welcome. Thank you.
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