What's A Fleeting Expletive?

Andy Rooney On Words Best Left Unspoken

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.

I have quite a few bad habits which I'm not going to talk about now because I only have a few minutes, but swearing and using dirty words is not one of my vices. I don't use foul language and I don't like to hear anyone else use it either.

It doesn't make me a wonderful person but I like this about myself or I wouldn't be telling you about it.

You don't hear dirty words on broadcast television very often except on cable and satellite because 30 years ago the Federal Communications Commission banned their use in broadcasting. It was the right thing to do but I know what words I think are okay to use and which ones are not and I don't need the FCC to tell me what they are.

Later this year, the Supreme Court will be deciding whether some broadcasters should be fined by the FCC for the brief use of those dirty words-they call them "fleeting expletives."

No one has ever explained what harm dirty words do but it's like bad manners. I mean life is a bootstrap operation and dirty words may not be much but they diminish the quality of all our lives by just a little bit.

I think if the Federal Communications Commission left broadcasters alone, there would be very little profanity on the air because most people just don't want it, and if listeners don't want it broadcasters wouldn't give it to them.

I was in the Army for four years. I know all the four-letter words, I just don't want to be reminded of them on broadcasts but I don't want a lot of government agencies trying to regulate what I can say or hear on the air either.

Language is one of the best tools ever invented for anything and English is by far the best language. So, we should be careful using it though - so, I'll damn well decide for myself what I can say and what I can't say.

Written By Andy Rooney