MAD DOG: Watching Our @*!#*$&^! Language
There's little question that we're turning into a foul mouth bunch. It's nothing to turn on the TV and hear prime time sitcom characters telling each other that they suck. Or David Letterman doing his best to conjugate the word ass at least once in every sentence. Or even see billboards and newspaper ads for an airline named after an untouched babe using the word shag more ways than Tracy Lords -- or even the House of Lords -- has done it."Are you freakin' sure it's worse than before?" you're asking as you look up from an ad for Safeguard in the new mouth-sized bar. In a word, yes. And we now have documented scientific proof, much like we do that drinking in moderation is good for the heart and there can never be too many TV newsmagazines. Or a more obvious oxymoron.The Movie Index, a company that has nothing better to do than sit around and count the swear words in movies -- a job, incidentally, which I was born to have -- has announced that "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" has more profanity per minute (PPM) than any other movie they know of: 399 naughty words in 80 minutes. That's almost five cusswords per minute, or one every twelve seconds. You don't hear that much swearing at the Tourette's Syndrome Annual Awards Banquet."Pulp Fiction", much to my surprise, only has a PPM of 2.66. True, there are more obscenities in that movie than in South Park -- 411 to be exact -- but it's also twice as long. When they release the full-length really uncut South Park movie there could be as many as 798 nasty words in two hours, which is even more than were recorded last December when the doors opened at Toys R Us and 3,645 mothers found out there were only two Furby's to fight over and the manager and security guard had already snapped them up.Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Hell, most of the people I know -- and that includes myself, who I know fairly well -- talk like that all the time. Well, not all the time. After all, most of us have a very good language governor, which is the mechanism that kicks in and adjusts our vocabulary when we're around someone's parents, at a job interview, or asking passersby for spare change. Well, at least until they're out of earshot.It's important to watch what you say, especially if you're in Michigan or around Walter Cronkite. A while back in -- yes, Michigan -- Timothy Boomer was convicted of cursing in front of children, something every parent this side of Amish country has done at least daily. In Howard Stern's book, "Private Parts", which I recently read thanks to its being on the $1.98 hardbound rack in a Goodwill store, he talks about the time Walter Cronkite reamed out Stuttering John for using the word "friggin'" in a question he posed to the newsman. Obviously Walter doesn't live in the real world with the rest of us, much like when then-president George Bush was amazed to discover that in the grocery store they pass your purchases over a little red light which -- will wonders never cease? -- causes the price to ring up automatically.Now his son, who's running for president on a platform of being a legacy, is following in dad's clueless footsteps. Even though he bought up a reported 60 Internet domain names to stop people from starting websites like bushsucks.com and bushbites.com, he managed to miss the obvious. Some wise guys started one at www.gwbush.com that satirizes him. In response, this potential Chief Executive in Charge of Upholding Truth, Justice, and the American Way declared, "There ought to be limits to freedom." Luckily there's no limit to our freedom to choose who to vote for.It turns out that young George isn't the only one trying to corner the market on nasty web site names. Until recently Internic, the people who doled out domain names, wouldn't allow cusswords to be included. But now that they no longer have the exclusive rights to hand out names, anything goes. According to one company, 75 percent of their business is in names like @^!(@*%&^!.com, and you can be assured that site won't be distributing new type fonts.It's true, people swear a lot. Some of them even swear at the TV networks for taking their favorite cuss words out of movies. While this can often ruin a good movie, remember that you still have the option of going to see it in a theater, renting it in its full glory, or yelling the words out yourself.Each of the networks has its own set of standards, which is why one station's damn is another one's darn. Possibly the all-time bleepfest champion is TBS, which keeps things so squeaky clean that they edit out any word that can't be found in a Dr. Seuss book and a few that can. One of the great joys in life is watching Blazing Saddles on TBS because it's perilously close to being a silent movie. Anyone who hasn't seen the original wouldn't even realize it's a comedy. Picture this: they actually show the campfire farting scene without any sound! Now that's funny.Maybe we should clean up our language, but it won't be easy. After all, the new Lonely Planet British Phrase Book says that "In England, there are so many people whose speech is so dependent on the word f***, they're virtually dumbstruck without it." Face it, if the Mother Tongue has turned into the Motherf***ing Tongue, what hope do we have?