When George Carlin created his ‘Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television’ bit, the FCC didn’t have the legal authority to ban dirty words from public airways. That bit, played uncensored by a NYC radio station, led to the getting that authority.

Seven dirty words

A poster in a WBAI broadcast booth which warns radio broadcasters against using the words

The seven dirty words are seven English-language curse words that American comedian George Carlin first listed in his 1972 “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” monologue. The words, in the order Carlin listed them, are “shit”, “piss”, “fuck”, “cunt”, “cocksucker”, “motherfucker”, and “tits”.

At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used. Broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, alt… Continue Reading (8 minute read)

13 thoughts on “When George Carlin created his ‘Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television’ bit, the FCC didn’t have the legal authority to ban dirty words from public airways. That bit, played uncensored by a NYC radio station, led to the getting that authority.”

  1. VANWHOA

    I teach FCC regulations for broadcasting and this is by far my favorite section of the training

  2. bradyso

    Carlin never fails to impress with this memory. He must have practiced his lines a lot. He should have been featured on that show, the history of swearing.

  3. ReasonablyBadass

    Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about america: gore is absolutely fine, but they are terrified of “bad words”

  4. amitym

    Airwaves.

    Airways are the FAA.

    I don’t know what the FBB is.

  5. raven080068

    You should watch “The history of swear words” on Netflix. It’s glorious. And it’s Nick Cage

  6. knightress_oxhide

    The FCC has never had the constitutional legal authority to ban any words.

  7. flybypost

    Out of curiosity, as somebody from Germany who always gets told how much more free speech the USA has than anybody else. How does that work? The [Federal Communications Commission](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Communications_Commission) seems to be a government agency. How can they be allowed to have influence over private companies (broadcasters) when it comes to these words in the context of the [first amendment](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution)?

  8. HALover9kBR

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  9. justinroark88

    I still don’t know why piss is such a bad word

  10. Puzzleheaded_Luck885

    They really shouldn’t have banned those words. It’s ridiculous.

  11. Henry2k

    You can say “I pricked my finger”, but you can’t say “I fingered my prick”

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