The seven deadly synonyms

In Sinclair Lewis’s prescient 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, the ignorant demagogue Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip wins the 1936 election with the support of millions of impoverished and angry voters. Among the more serious totalitarian indignities of Windrip’s “Corpo” government are the curtailing of women’s and minority rights and the building of concentration camps. Another tactic is the bowdlerizing of language and the forbidding of words and phrases that seemingly run counter to the administration’s noble ends.

Fast forward to the present day.

“In case you were keeping score at home: In Donald Trump’s America, you’re allowed to refuse to make me a cake, because pastry is free speech. But if you’re a researcher studying medicine at the leading national public health institute of the United States, you can’t say “science-based” in a budget request.” This was the lead paragraph by Jennifer Finney Boylan in her New York Times op-ed piece “Trump, the C.D.C. and the Peek-a-Boo Doctrine” (December 18, 2017). For those still pinching themselves to see if it was just a bad dream, the reference, of course, is to the Donald “the Donald” Trump administration’s request that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ban seven words or phrases from agency budget documents.

Those deadly seven words are “vulnerable,” “evidence-based,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” and “science-based.” In effect, the ban virtually denies the existence of fetuses, transgender people, and even science. So, in order to return the misbegotten to the fold, we must replace them with softer, happier terms. For example, Fetus could be “oven bun.” In keeping with the simple-hearted approach, “wet behind the ears” could easily substitute for “vulnerable.” “Sorta” could sub for “evidence-based” or “science-based,” while “mine, mine, mine” and “higgledy-piggledy” might fill in for “entitlement” and “diversity.” I’m still working on “transgender,” but I think that they might prefer a simple “oops.”

Naturally, the choice of exactly seven questionable terms brought to mind George Carlin’s own list—which he called the “heavy seven.” These were words you could not say on TV at the time: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Ironically, as an aside, it was Carlin’s list of “heavy seven” words that went on to become the de facto standard for FCC rulings on what could indeed not be said over the public airwaves.

In closing, I mentioned Carlin to my sister, Donna, and this was her take on how Carlin may have responded to the new ban:

“That shit has no concerns for any fetus; he would piss on the vulnerable; and, fuck the transgender community.”

“That cocksucker, cunt would eliminate science-based and evidence based decision-making, while assuming different sized tits are examples of diversity.”

“And, that motherfucker is only interested in his own entitlement.”

Thanks, George, wherever you are!

One thought on “The seven deadly synonyms

  1. cmh January 17, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    A glorious take on Carlin indeed! Or rather, a motherfucking gloriously kickass take!

    Liked by 1 person

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