On Monday November 3rd, NPR did a carefully worded interview with a book author as background on an upcoming Supreme Court case on something called “transitory vulgarity,” or the use of a naughty word on live broadcasts, and whether broadcasters should be fined if a celebrity occasionally drops the “F-bomb” in an unscripted moment of emotionally charged candor.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday about the F-word. The case, FCC v. FOX TV, stems from some stunning moments of live television. Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, and author of The F-Word, says the F-word has ceased being used exclusively in reference to sex.
To avoid repetition and to avoid promoting the book by its title, host Robert Siegel suggests substituting another word… “floss.” The discussion goes on, with only a few slips and use of the “F-word” euphemism. The word “floss” is conjugated in various ways. This was amusing in itself, and resulted in a number of listener letters and emails a few days later. But Tuesday night it resulted in some hilarious moments as we gathered with friends to eat and watch the election returns together.
It started when one of the other guests at the party commented out of the blue, “I will never be able to look my dentist in the eye again. I just won’t be able to keep a straight face when he talks about floss.”
She got an immediate laugh; apparently a lot of the others were fellow NPR/WBEZ listeners. I quipped, in a suitably chiding dental assistant’s voice, “Have you been FLOSSING regularly?”
Hilarity ensued. Various highly improper suggestions, having nothing to do with dental hygiene, were offered in quick succession by everyone in that part of the room:
“Do you floss morning and night?”
“Do you floss at work?”
“Here is some complimentary floss and mouthwash.”
“Flossing is important for dental health AND it’s good for your heart!”
“Would you prefer a minty fresh floss, or a waxed one?”
For a few minutes, about 6 people waxed hysterical about floss. And then when we tried to explain it to someone who hadn’t heard the piece, it fell flat. So listen to the piece on the NPR.org website, and then see if you can keep a straight face at the dentist when they offer to floss you.