Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

George Carlin has died. A Prawfsblawg post by Howard Wasserman featured this video of Carlin's Seven Dirty Words routine:


Howard Wasserman's broader point regarding Carlin's legal legacy is squarely on target. There simply is no way to reconcile FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978), with core First Amendment principles, let alone the admittedly unwieldy mass of free speech decisions rendered by the Supreme Court. The routine itself, transcribed on the pages of United States Report, succinctly summarizes the reaction of most legal scholars to Pacifica: "I've had that shit up to here." 438 U.S. at 753.

George CarlinFor my part, I always think of Carlin whenever I think of a specific "two-way word[]" and its peculiar etymology in the English language. According to the original Seven Dirty Words routine, "ass is okay providing you're riding into town on a religious feast day." Otherwise, the sentiment "up your ass" must be recast as the milder "stuff it!"

As it happens, ass in modern English appears to represent the merger of two distinct Germanic roots, one referring to the odd-toed ungulate, Equus asinus, and the other referring to the buttocks. Modern German distinguishes sharply between Esel and Arsch, but English does not. My frequent use of the German word Arschloch pays homage to the rather awkward way I first learned the difference between the words: by using Arsch when I really, really, really meant Esel.

And insofar as Western artists have made much use of the Hebrew Bible's story of Balaam and his talking ass (chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers), I suppose it makes sense to dedicate the following collage to George Carlin, a comedic genius and a friend of civil liberties:

ArschlochEsel
Balaam and the ass
Gustav Jaeger, Bileam und der Engel (1836)

1 Comments:

Blogger Beth said...

Good post for a great comic.

6/24/2008 8:14 AM  

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