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The Seven Words You Can’t Say at the CDC

Larry Beinhart’s Body Politic for January 2018



On December 15, the Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had been given a list of seven words they were not to use. It’s possible that the restriction applies only to budget documents. It’s possible that it applies to other agencies as well. The CDC is subordinate to the Department of Health and Human Services, whose spokesperson denied it. The head of the CDC denied it also, but it took her two days to do so. The Washington Post story seemed very credibly sourced.

All I can say is that it gets worse and worse, so much so that it must be treated in verse.

The White House giveth out a command
Of seven words that now must be banned

Not the seven that George Carlin made famous,
that to say on TV would be to shame us.

This is more like a special writ of mandamus
put in place at the whim of King Ignoramus

The new list is secret, the new list is known,
in the Washington Post, and now in a poem.

The White House denies both Post and verse,
but truth for the Trumps oft runs in reverse.

The new list is for an important agency
Based down in Atlanta, it’s the CDC.

Oddly its full name is quite rarely mentioned:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They must watch their language around diseases
they can no longer say whatever they pleases.

Is it just because the CDC has bored us,
and it’s about time that they used a thesaurus?

So, what’s on the list, what are the words,
never to be written, never to be heard.

Among the first to go had to be fetus
‘cause it’s a trick word that’s out to defeat us

into thinking a zygote’s not a full human being
capable of thinking, seeing, peeing, and skiing.  

Right near the top is the word transgender
because some of us find it a scary mindbender.

To others the ban sounds hugely queer 
perhaps prompted by some small-fingered fear.

Should CDC decisions be evidence based?
Use that phrase and you’ll go down in disgrace.

Since facts are no longer in the best of taste 
the CDC shouldn’t be that kind of place.

Don’t think you’ll slip by, don’t think you can,
by saying science based, to get ’round the ban.

They’re wise to you, Mr. Science Smarty-Pants,
give it your best shot, and lose all your grants.

There are some who think Trump heaven sent
to wage righteous war against entitlement.

It’s not what he said, it is what he meant.
If the word is gone, what’s left to lament?

It’s decided that it must be some kind of perversity
to use the word, let alone seek, diversity.

Do not complain and do not curse at me
that’s what I learned at Trump University.

Vulnerable is one more word not to mention.
Its use will get you sent down to detention.

It might cause worry, concern, and despair,
when we cut Medicaid and cut Medicare.

For those too young, or those who missed it,
here’s George Carlin’s seven, euphemistically listed,

to establish a contrast with our changing times
and why the pain of the moment cries out in rhymes.

The old list was basically the rude and the lewd
oft used for anger, or just a bad mood.

There was urine and feces in the four-letter form.
The carnal act that you can use to keep warm.

The curt, harsh sound used for the female genitalia,
another for the other female sign of genus mamalia.

A sixth is so oft-used, and so frequently heard,
that in some places mother is just half a word.

One’s about a person who does a certain oral act
but its use is rarely prompted by that pleasant fact.

Now we have cable and the internet, too
with full use of words that were once called blue,

plus the hardest hardcore on quick instant view.
Censorship has turned to something totally new.

If this first seven is a huge Trump success
there will be more, that’s our best guess.

There are so many more that bring him distress
that he’d surely love to repress and suppress.

One to be rid of, since it creates much confusion,
the thing that there isn’t, you know, collusion.

Wouldn’t it be great to never hear that again.
If you’d shut up about it, we could all be friends.

Another selection, because it sounds so off-color
that friend of James Comey, that guy Robert Mueller.

When he goes, special council will go to, 
that’s just not something really good people do.

More syllables Trump need never hear again,
that maker of fake news: CNN.

As long as our list is being guided by rhymes
wouldn’t he banish the New York Times?

He does not yet snarl at these words in public
but General John Kelly must make him sick.

Kelly’s testimony is the most likely to stick,
and he’s hooked to Trump as tight as a tick.  

Whether spoken sharply or in a deep drawl
the word Trump hates, that makes his skin crawl,

that makes him protest, bleat, squeak, and squall,
about his crowds, or his fingers, that word is small. 

The original print version of this article was titled:
"Larry Beinhart’s Body Politic: The Seven Words You Can’t Say at the CDC"

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