November 08, 2006

Try and stop me, FCC

The Language Log news department has learned that the FCC has just decided to reverse itself on certain cases where they had ruled against uses of obscene language on broadcast media. The CBS Early Show will not be fined for broadcasting an occurrence of the word "bullshitter". (The New York Daily News is remarkably coy, though, printing it as "bulls-er"; comment later from Arnold Zwicky of the Language Taboo Desk). It seems that the FCC is going to allow more freedom for use of filthy language on news programs than is allowed for similar cursing on other programs.

Well, Language Log is, of course, part of the news media, so we have even more freedom now to say whatever we want, and broadcast it if we want to. Which gives me the right to tell you about something that just arrived in the mail that I thought I would share with you. Something to convince you that we professors, even Kantian moral philosophy professors, are not all prim and fusty and severe; we are open, red-blooded, and always ready for a laugh.

Professor Jeffrie Murphy of Arizona State University has just published the presidential address that he gave in consequence of his receiving the honor of selection as President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association ("Legal moralism and retribution revisited," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 80.2, November 2006, 45-62). And about being awarded the presidency by his peers, he says (p. 45):

The very day after I received notification of my selection as president, my wife and I went to see the Francois Ozan film "The Swimming Pool." Early in that film, the Charlotte Rampling character — commenting on literary and academic awards — makes this remark: "Awards are like hemorrhoids — eventually every asshole gets one."

And we can report filthy talk like that, you see, without fear of prosecution, because we are Language Log, and we are part of the media in a free nation.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 8, 2006 04:13 PM