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Newspaper ratings would give readers a choice

If you’re watching TV these days, you’re in good hands, because television now has rated shows just like the movies. But the ratings are a little different. Among others, they have “R,” “PG-14”and “NR.”

• R stands for Raunchy. You can tell it’s wicked, because parts that caused the R rating have been deleted and colorful words are replaced with BLEEP.

• PG-14 stands for Pretty Gruesome. These are shows full of chainsaws, hockey masks, and shiny meat cleavers. You can tell they are inspirational shows made for 14-year-olds only, because younger kids get bored and older folks throw up.

• NR stands for Not Rated. These are mostly movies produced in my youth and mostly deal with the latest dispatches from the Gettysburg front lines.

So today’s question is, can newspapers be far behind? I’m ready, because back in olden times I penned a few R-rated news stories that never got past the copy desk because no one knew they could just delete paragraphs or BLEEP nasty words.

But now that television has led the way, newspapers can come out of the closet and start printing naughty stories complete with disappearing paragraphs and BLEEPed words. They can warn readers of questionable contents by simply stamping a tiny R on top of each wicked page. (Sorry, no PG-14. Kids don’t read anymore anyway.)

This newspaper rating system gives readers a choice — they can either scan the story and write crude letters to the editor, or they can wrap their dead parakeet in the unread paper and toss it in the dumpster.

If you need an example of how wonderful this newspaper rating system can be, here’s a quote from a book by a famous author, who shall remain anonymous. I’ve BLEEPed out all the shady words and made a few revisions as follows:

“Mary had a little BLEEP, its BLEEP was BLEEP as BLEEP, and everywhere that Mary went, her BLEEP was sure to BLEEP. It followed her to BLEEP one day and made the BLEEP BLEEP. That’s why Mary got a new BLEEP.”

See how it works? I could go on and on, but you get the point. After my expert BLEEPing, that paragraph would stand up under scrutiny by any carefree curmudgeon.

When we were first married, my wife Marilyn developed her own ratings of my colorful language. In her kindly schoolmarm way, she said, “If you can’t talk without using those expressions, keep your BLEEP mouth shut.”

“What the BLEEP did I say?” I cried.

“See? You aren’t even aware of it anymore.”

“What the BLEEP can I do?”

(Delete entire paragraph here and pencil in R at top of story.)

The upshot was, she gave me a list of car parts and said, “I’ve selected these words as substitutes for BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP and BLEEP. That way you can get through an entire sentence without embarrassing me and everyone will think you know something about cars.”

From that point on my life changed. No longer would I say BLEEP. I would say “bumper.” And instead of BLEEP, I would say “tail pipe.” Other expressions included: “carburetor” for BLEEP, “windshield wiper” for BLEEP and “muffler” for BLEEP. I know it sounds quirky, but I tried it anyway, even though some friends cocked their heads and said, “What the BLEEP is he talking about?”

Still, I kept struggling with her system — a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do when he’s threatened with starched shorts — until one day I took Marilyn’s car to a garage for repairs and asked for an estimate.

“Well, first off, your wife’s carburetor is shot,” the mechanic said.

“Yeah? Well, your wife’s bumper isn’t much to look at either,” I said, and all BLEEP broke loose.

That’s when I decided to keep my mouth shut. It was easier than finding a new mechanic every few months. Yet, there are moments when I feel obliged to empty my naughty word dam, and I drive into the country and open the flood gates.

Local ranchers don’t appreciate it though when their pastures have streaks of burned grass. I hope they blame it on BLEEP.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.

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