Abstract

Given George Carlin's obsession with language, it is a wonder this modern Jeremiah has not been (as far as I can tell) the subject of scholarly studies. A rhetorical approach to his four books facilitates our analysis of language as a foregrounded feature of his comedy. I refer to more than simply the telling of jokes. Sometimes, Carlin comments on language itself (clichés, oxymorons, tautologies, euphemisms), establishing himself as a satirist insisting upon higher linguistic standards. He challenges his audience. Elsewhere, he humorously draws attention to the eccentricities and inconsistencies of English, heightening our awareness of and sensitivity to the written and spoken word. Other times, he sportively employs tropes and schemes to dazzle with his rhythmic and syntactical ingenuity: his handling of his medium can be even more startling and impressive than the message he conveys.

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