For, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cussing by certain politicians, as well as certain cable-TV newscasters, has come under scrutiny of late, which prompted a friend to remind me of a phrase I came up with in the 1980s, ‘The Eddie Murphy Word’ or ‘EMW,’ by which I meant that four-letter expletive that was (over)used by Murphy in nearly all of his early films. Here are a couple of ‘Hicks on Flicks’ columns from that period about profanity, the first is an secondary section of a longer column on other subjects, published in the Deseret News on Nov. 30, 1986, and the second column is from July 17, 1988 (both preceded by their original headlines).


Bits and pieces from a film critic’s desk …

Clearing the debris from the film critic’s desk we find:

You have no doubt read by now that Clint Eastwood’s new movie “Heartbreak Ridge” (which opens next Friday) is upsetting the Marines.

In news stories on the subject, U.S. Marine Corps spokesman Lt. Col. John Shotwell is quoted as saying about Eastwood’s films, “There is an excessive amount of profanity, which we object to. As a matter of fact, D.I.s (drill instructors) are not permitted by regulations to swear at recruits.”

Of course they aren’t.

That includes the former Marine D.I. who was my high school coach. His colorful language, I am sure, was merely to impress us, since he was never allowed to use it in front of recruits.

And later, when I was in the Army for three years, a year of that time spent at a base that was about half-Army, half-Marines in population, I must admit that I can’t remember ever hearing a soldier or Marine utter an expletive worse than “golly” (which explains why the U.S. Marines so heartily endorsed the “Gomer Pyle” TV series.)


No military man worth his salt has ever used a word that couldn’t be used in a Sunday School sermon. Right?

And if you believe all that, I have an interest in a unicorn farm I’d like to sell. …

I wonder if Shotwell ever saw “Patton.”


2 comedies have unfunny word in common

Two action comedies open Wednesday, “Die Hard,” starring Bruce Willis, and “Midnight Run,” starring Robert De Niro.

Despite that description, they are actually very different films. “Die Hard” is set entirely in a Los Angeles high-rise, with Willis as a dark combination of Dirty Harry and Indiana Jones, and the movie is mostly violent action. “Midnight Run” is an offbeat buddy-road picture with De Niro as a sort of Beverly Hills bounty hunter, and it’s mostly wisecracking comedy.

But these two pictures do have one major factor in common — their constant use of a particular profanity, which shall herewith be designated by the acronym EMW (Eddie Murphy Word).


In movies, EMW is used as an adjective, a noun, a verb, an adverb, an insult, a compliment and very often simply a filler between other words in a sentence.

It is used so often that if an alien visited earth and took these two films back to his own planet — or such other current movies as “The Dead Pool,” “Jack’s Back” and “Coming to America” — his friends and neighbors would think that EMW and its many variations are used by everyone on Earth (or at least in America) as every other word in a sentence.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing the EMW in movies. As good as “Die Hard” and “Midnight Run” are, sitting through them becomes a real pain in the ear.

You have to wonder about screenwriters who slave over their scripts and use EMW as often as they do. Can you see them refining dialogue? Hmmm, I’ll have him say, “Shut the EMW up!” No, how about “Shut your EMW mouth!” Or maybe “Shut the EMW your EMW mouth the EMW up!”

Now that’s creativity.

I’ve said this before, but I still feel it to be true. It’s one thing to use profanity for shock value, or to show that a character is losing his cool — but to use it constantly just mutes the impact and becomes a major turnoff.

Thank goodness Dirty Harry didn’t say, “Make my EMW day.”

Then maybe everyone in America (if not everyone on the planet) would be using that word!