Piss and the Rocky Mountain News

In the second item of his July 5 column, Rocky Mountain News media critic Jason Salzman wondered if any entries from the late George Carlin's famous list of seven dirty words you can't say on television, first delivered in the early '70s, can now be printed in the paper for which he writes. Rocky managing editor Deb Goeken said not as a general rule, although she conceded that variations on "piss" had made their way into the pages "a couple of times without approval" -- a discovery that prompted "a good discussion at our morning news meeting."

That's not all there is to talk about, though. A search of the Rocky's website reveals a lot more urine than Goeken lets on -- a whopping 29 hits on "piss" and assorted variations.

A lot of the "piss" comes from web-only content. First up was a June 6 letter about Garrison Keillor, of all people, followed by an April 10 World Affairs blog by Jerd Smith that includes items from a previous day's filing. In addition, the phrase "pissed off" turned up in a December 2007 Dave Kreiger sports column, and an October 2007 McClatchy Newspapers piece served up news about the Colorado Rockies along with a steaming mug of "piss and vinegar." But "piss" was hardly a sports-page exclusive, even taking a bow as part of an April 2007 Lisa Bornstein theater feature.

Not nearly as many examples of the word "tit," which Salzman also thinks should be publishable at this point, have snuck into the Rocky -- and all of them I found were used as part of the term "tit-for-tat," which won't make most readers think of Pamela Anderson. However, the paper obviously intends to hold the line on that term and "piss," both of which are spelled in Salzman's column with their first letter and a long dash.

Apparently that message hasn't filtered down to the rest of the staff, many of whom see no reason to stop pissing around. -- Michael Roberts