The Magnificent Seven

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The Magnificent Seven

George Carlin was part of a very fine and very respectable American tradition – that of the painfully funny and dangerously smart freethinking foul-mouth. Many of my heroes belonged to this tradition, and it seems like most of them are now dead. Comics like Carlin and Bill Hicks – and writers like Robert Anton Wilson – didn’t just tell jokes or write comedy, they moulded neuro-linguistic smart bombs with a time-delay fuse, designed to perplex you for months or even years as you find yourself thinking hard about why you laughed so hard in the first place.

Carlin wasn’t that well known in the UK, but I couldn’t help but notice how a lot of the mainstream local coverage of his death has been somewhat coy and evasive. The BBC News website announced that:

“Grammy-award winning comedian George Carlin, best known for his Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV routine, has died of heart failure aged 71.

The story said quite a lot about his most infamous monologue. It mentioned how “his Seven Words routine led to his arrest in 1972 for disturbing the peace after he performed the act at a show in Milwaukee.” It also told the famous story of the New York radio station that played a recording of the Seven Words, which resulted in “a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 upholding the government’s authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language.”

The one thing the BBC didn’t mention is what the Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV actually were.

Would you like to know what they were?

George Carlin’s Seven Forbidden Words were shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

I first read about this in the late Robert Anton Wilson’s excellent book, Quantum Psychology. In it, he devotes a chapter to Carlin and the neurolinguistic hallucinations we associate with “bad” language. Like much of Wilson’s work, it’ll make you laugh like an idiot.

It’ll also perplex you for months.


About the Author:

My name is Tom Lennon and I'm a freelance writer who specialises in humour at the geekier end of the pop culture spectrum. I'm based in Birmingham, UK, and my work has recently appeared in BuzzFeed and Time Out.

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