Your tax dollars at work

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Those interested in the FCC's defense of our electromagnetic spectrum against taboo language will be following the forthcoming consideration of Chase Utley's remarks on the Phillies' World Series victory, which Chris Potts discussed here and here. (The YouTube video is reposted here, since the copy that Chris linked to was taken down.)

Perhaps the FCC will accept Mr. Utley's proposed rule about when public use of the word fucking for emphasis should be allowed:

Utley, who would not face sanctions himself, addressed his language Monday during a news conference about his surgically repaired hip: "I tell all kids not to use that word. If they're 29 and they win the World Series, I think they can say that. But I definitely would say to all the kids out there, 'Kids, it's a bad word. Don't say it. And I'm dead serious.' "

But what if you're 42 and you win the Golden Globe? Or …


  1. Vincent said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 10:59 am

    "our electromagnetic spectrum against taboo language"? I can't make sense of that, sorry.

    [(myl) This was a jocular and apparently misleading reference to the fact that the FCC regulates word-choice in broadcast media (radio and television) but not on cable or on the internet.]

  2. rousseau said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

    "My" tax dollars? "Our" electromagnetic spectrum? Not having read this blog very long, is such casual American parochialism standard here?

    [(myl) Yup. Except when furriners write — they use pronouns different from us.]

  3. Karen said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    Oh, my, yes, rousseau. Extremely common. Especially the "your tax dollars" (usually followed by "at work").

  4. Karen said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

    Ummm… "here" being the USA, not necessarily this blog; it occurs to me that I may have misread your question.

  5. rousseau said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

    "Ummm… "here" being the USA…"

    You can never overestimate American parochialism. Even in somewhat more learned fora. It's simply an incredible phenomenon.

    No more from me on this topic. As you were.

  6. Thomas Thurman said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    "Your tax dollars at work" is a sign often displayed outside municipal projects in the US (where most readers can be assumed to pay taxes to the local authorities). Hence it has become a jocular interlocution about wastes of public money. It doesn't mean *your* tax dollars, or anyone's in particular.

  7. John said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

    rousseau – I haven't found such "parochialism" in blogs to be unique to Americans. Moreover I hardly see how pronouns with hazily-defined antecedents necessarily equates to parochialism.

    Perhaps Mark is just speaking to his American readers (as opposed to him assuming that all of his readers are Americans), and the rest of the world can read along with bemusement and, maybe, the benefit of the doubt?

  8. John said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

    Oops…should be "…how using pronouns…"

  9. locke said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

    rousseau – One of "your" examples of "American parochialism" comes from the heading. Blog headings, like newspaper headlines, employ a different linguistic register. "You" (excuse me if I'm sounding parochial) wouldn't go up to someone and say, "Of shoes, waffles, pants, shorts, tanks, and voices," but as a blog heading it is perfectly acceptable and not at all parochial.

  10. Matt B in LA said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

    Troll alert, people! Yikes.

  11. Mark Liberman said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

    Thanks, Matt.

  12. K. said,

    December 18, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

    As Karen mentions, "your tax dollars at work" is a set expression. Altering it (for example, "Americans' tax dollars at work") would sound unfelicitous and fail to convey the intended meaning.

    I can't believe rousseau failed to mention what seems to me an even more egregious example of "American parochialism": the fact that we call our national baseball championship "the World Series" and its victors "World Champions" despite the fact that only one non-American club is even in competition.

  13. Jorge said,

    December 19, 2008 @ 6:34 am

    And I'm dead serious.

    Does that mean death is completely non-taboo, or just less taboo than sex?

  14. rpsms said,

    December 19, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

    I think it means he will kill all children who use that word.

  15. Fred said,

    December 23, 2008 @ 4:56 pm


    The "World" Series and the winning "World" champion is more of an idiom than a literal parochialism. Some 5 year old kids probably don't know the difference, but all US adults understand to not take the terms literally.

    In another game, chess, there is "Mate", for example, but we don't expect the chess players to begin copulating or operating seagoing vessels…

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