January 25, 2004

Maybe better make that "freaking brilliant"

Jan Freeman, in the Boston Globe's The Word column today, alerts those of us who missed the AP and Dow Jones stories to a new chapter in the story of the FCC and Bono's Golden Globe acceptance speech last fall. Bono said "This is really, really fucking brilliant"; the Parents' Television Council complained; and the FCC decided not to fine NBC, arguing that

The word "f---ing" may be crude and offensive but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities. Rather, the performer used the word "f---ing" as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation [and that] ... is not within the scope of the commission's prohibition of indecent program content.

After three months of protests, FCC chairman Michael Powell "has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to revisit the issue, hoping to reinstate the f-word ban."

Freeman cites Language Logger John McWhorter's Washington Post op-ed, where John wrote:

We obsess over the encroachment of vulgar words into public spaces on pain of a stark inconsistency, one that will appear even more ridiculous to future generations than some Victorians calling trousers "nether garments" does to us.

Based on the wire stories, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the FCC will reverse itself, and the only question is how big NBC's fine will be.

Posted by Mark Liberman at January 25, 2004 07:47 PM