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George Carlin's gone, but the Seven Dirty Words are with us in profusion

Carlin_nvlvs101Comedian George Carlin always cheerily referred to himself as ''a footnote in American legal history,'' and in the wake of his death from a heart attack Sunday night, he turned into the most frequently cited footnote since that infamous one in the Starr Report about Bill, Monica and cigars.

And about as difficult to write about in a family-friendly forum. For all the changes in the world since 1978, when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the FCC in fining a radio for broadcasting Carlin's poetically pottymouthed Seven Dirty Words routine, several of those words still make editors blanch and readers fire off smoking letters. Rarely can a single one of the seven be printed in The Miami Herald undisguised by asterisks or dashes.

That illustrates the paradoxical, lurching course of American culture over the past 30 years. What Carlin called ''the seven words you can never say on television'' -- they all refer to sexual practices, body parts or things you do in the bathroom -- are spoken in daily profusion on cable TV. Read the rest of my Miami Herald column.

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