I was saddened recently to see an offensive bumper sticker on a truck with a Maine license plate in our local community. Sad because I know that once a cultural shift occurs, things don’t revert back any time soon. In other words, so-called “progress” only moves in one direction. You can’t go back to the way it was. Just look at how many horses you see in your travels today. Or so-called fashion? People used to dress up to fly or take a train not that long ago. Now they consider lounge pants as appropriate as if they were attending a sleepover.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

Consider our use of language.

Back in 1965 I was working for CBS in Chicago. This was before cable television and a zillion stations to choose from, when daytime television was a ghetto of quiz shows and soap operas supervised by men. At noon the local outlet had a show called “Lunch With Lee,” during which women’s views were discussed and presented as a public service. The show was broadcast live before a studio audience. The rules of proper speech were enforced by the department of standards and practices, to keep what was within the boundaries of good taste and political science. But one day one of the guests on the show said a word that did not pass the censors, the word was “pregnant.” You could not use that word for any reason whatsoever.

There were reasons why certain words could never see the light of day. They were curse words, words everyone knew but did not use in public. Comedian George Carlin made an entire career out of the “Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television.” Pregnant was not one of them, but the word that offended me is still on the list and that word was the same one on the bumper sticker that bothered me, along with the name of our governor. I found it distressing that someone would think it’s OK to implant such words on their vehicle for everyone to see. What were they thinking?

We’ve come a long way since the days of “gol-dang it” or “cheese and crackers” as substitutes for a curse word. There is a reason we don’t hear certain words when watching television or listening to the radio. Such rules and regulations date back to the beginning of last century, when it was determined that the airwaves belonged to the people. The Federal Communications Commission was set up to enforce restrictions on broadcasters, such as what words could be said over the airwaves, and those definitely included Carlin’s seven words.

But there was a loophole: the advent of cable TV. Cable transmitted images through a wire cable, not over the air. That is why on HBO, Amazon Prime and Netflix they can say whatever they want and not be prosecuted. The late George Carlin would be pleased, but would our governor? Or our parents walking their young children down the street? It doesn’t seem like censorship to me, just good manners.

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