Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin

Unless you've been living under a rock or scaling Mount Everest lately, you know that George Carlin has died. I grew up watching The Flip Wilson Show, and that was my introduction to George Carlin.

For the last couple of days the news stations have been replaying "The Seven Words You Can't Say" ad nausem. If you weren't familiar with him, you'd think that was the only funny piece he ever did. For my part, my favorite Carlin piece wasn't something he meant as humor. I heard it during an interview, and it was serious, though he delivered it in a much more entertaining voice than you will "hear" reading it dead on this page. But, for what it's worth, this is my Gearge Carlin all time fav:
There's a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It's when a fighting person's nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can't take anymore input. The nervous system has either snapped or is about to snap. In the First World War, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago. Then a whole generation went by and the Second World War came along and very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn't seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue. Then we had the war in Korea, 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time, and the very same combat condition was called operational exhaustion. Hey, we're up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It's totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it's no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we've added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I'll bet if we'd still been calling it shell shock, some of those Viet Nam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time.



That's great, thanks.

I still quote his 'Hippy Dippy Weatherman' forecast, also from his Flip Wilson days:

"It'll be dark tonight with scattered light toward morning."

It's hardly ever wrong, but sad to say it has been a looooong time since anybody caught the reference.

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