119 Words You Can’t Say on TV…Well, on WGN-AM in Chicago


George Carlin famously defined “The Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television.” (And it’s till funny, even if a number of the words are now said on TV; check out the Wikipedia article.)

Now Randy Michaels, CEO of Tribune Co., recently issued a list of words and phrases he does not want WGN-AM reporters to use on the air.

Some make sense: “Two to one margin . . . (since) ‘Two to one’ is a ratio, not a margin. A margin is measured in points. It’s not a ratio.” Or the mispronunciations of Iraq and Iran as “Eye Rack” and “Eye Ran.”

Some are journalistic cliches:

  • Area residents (why not just “residents”?)
  • Clash with police
  • Killing spree
  • Our top story tonight
  • Perfect storm
  • Senseless murder

There are some who are criticizing Michaels for the list at a time when you might assume the CEO of the bankrupt Tribune Co. would be busy with more important financial matters. But I think he’s right — a lot of the terms he banned are cliches that don’t move the story forward. After all, referring to some (also a banned word) murders as “senseless” seems to imply that you could classify some as “sensible murders.”

The entire list is available here.

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