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Tending the Garden of Profanity

George Carlin, The Passing of a Genius
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Stand up comedian George Carlin passed on June 22, leaving the world with an appealing, at times not so pleasant – even disturbed, sense of logic and language. In his wake, I can’t help but notice the writings of various local and national writers commemorating and condemning profanity, some with extremist non-tolerance, others with dictations guaranteeing an e-pass to hell. I am taking a minute to reflect on the very essence of freedom of speech that we often suppress through self-righteousness, authoritarian obedience, or fear.

Language is a dynamic and significant aspect of life. We communicate with it. We love with it. We fight with it. We rejoice with it. Language harnesses hopes and dreams, encompasses our histories and beliefs, and settles us when we are lost. Language allows two individuals to meet and know one another. What a privilege. Language also includes unseemly words.
Don’t get me wrong, profanity can be a sh%^ty thing. I’ve met a drunken judge whose slurring antics would shock the skirt off a nun. But profanity, much to the dismay of extremists, can’t be tucked away in a box, or swept under the rug of idealism. This is not going to remove the ‘issue,’ but instead, probably encourages it.

Language is like a garden. There are exotic words of exuberance. There are atypical and atrocious words. Then there are those weeds, those damned profanities. We can pull them, but they come back, spread, tempered and will remain. At times no other words will do, and using the right word at the right time is attractive in a speaker or writer. There are countless authors, speakers, musicians, comedians, and entertainers who, though at times dubiously, have developed their craft, their garden, to include profanities. Before becoming offended by a word, we should recognize the context and reward correct usage of any word, profane or not. George Carlin was a gardener of words, who knew that the right word at the right time could be f#!king brilliant.

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The Opinion Page is your place to spout off. This section contains letters to the editor and longer My Shot pieces. Also, the Spout features two bimonthly perspectives — In the Past, delving into Tahoe Truckee history, and In the Moment, an artistic musing of a moment today.

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February 14, 2019