George Carlin was one of my great inspirations. I'm not talking about early George...not the short-haired guy in a suit, and not the hippy-dippy guy that appeared in the late sixties and early seventies (although he was funny as hell back then). No, the George that is near and dear to my heart is elder statesman, the one who became a master of words, who could turn a phrase on its head and make you wonder why you never thought of it yourself.
George was a lover of words. The eloquence of a well-crafted sentence, the silliness of an oxymoron, the power that words can hold, and the damage they can do in the hands (or mouths) of idiots. I loved to listen to him speak. It didn't matter what the topic was, just as long as it was George expounding on it.
I loved it when he spoke about words, about their power. There was a bit he did, and forgive me if I don't remember it exactly, but it was about the danger of words. The line that stuck with me went something like, "Words aren't dangerous. It's the ignorant redneck using them that is dangerous."
Basically, words by themselves aren't dangerous. His "Seven Dirty Words" aren't bad words. We made them bad. It's all about the context. One of his favorite words (and mine) is "fuck". Like George said, it's so versatile and perfect for any situation. "Want some coffee?" "Fuck no." "Do these pants make me look fat?" "Fuck if I know."
Consider the word, "nigger." Yes, it's the dreaded "N-WORD" that makes white folk look over their shoulders when they whisper it. Why? I don't really know. It's just a word. I grew up with that word, as did most Americans. It's part of our culture. What I don't get is where we took the left turn that makes it okay for black folk to use it, but no one else can. It's just a word. Personally, I don't use it because some of my friends are offended by it (black, white, and asian).
What it comes down to is that WE gave that word power. Otherwise, it wouldn't really matter. It's like calling a woman a "cunt." Yes, the "C-WORD." I asked by wife about that one time. Was she offended by the word? Did it denigrate her? Did it make her feel anything? She said no, it didn't. So if someone were to call her a cunt, would she be offended? No, she said. She explained that if she let the word offend her, then the person who said it would win. By not letting it bother her, the word loses it's power, as does the person using it.
George knew this, and maybe my wife picked it up from him. I think it's something we should all consider. We are the ones who give words power when we let them offend us, anger us, let them hurt our feelings. If we could learn to control our fear of words, we could turn the tables on the bigots and racist and ignorant assholes of the world.
I think George would like that.