Dirty language: You might know it from every other line in a Lil Jon album or from the dialogue of virtually any show on premium cable (I’m looking at you, Sesame Street on HBO). But have you ever considered how we collectively decide which words to relegate to the great garbage pile of cultural taboos, and why?

In his now-iconic 1972 standup comedy routine, George Carlin outlined the “seven dirty words” deemed too vulgar for public consumption. And while the ever-changing tide of naughty phrases ebbs and flows, one constant remains: the peculiar choice of topics.

Anything remotely related to the natural processes of life becomes swiftly expunged from “clean” versions of art, music and literature. The acts of procreation, defecation and menstruation somehow serve as both fundamental pillars of biology and disgusting instances of indecency straight from the pits of hell. I urge you to consider the worst possible things we human beings can do to one another; perhaps murder, rape or starvation come to mind. Surely, if we are to censor anything, we must shield the vulnerable among us from allusions to these horrific acts. Yet we routinely grumble over the “torture” of being stuck in traffic or the “agony” of waiting for a pirated episode of Game of Thrones to buffer. TV news broadcasts regularly feature all stripes of sensational violence, from school shootings to decapitations, and still a woman openly breastfeeding on air ignites controversy. Should we not seek to purge such bloodcurdling mentions of cruelty and suffering from our everyday language, rather than the references to basic bodily functions we currently attempt to oust from the minds of our children? After all, as Carlin shrewdly observed, how do you think those kids were made in the first place?

Furthermore, once we arbitrarily select which words to censor, we fail to fully prevent the transmission of their message. Tune in to any late-night comedy show and you will find (in addition to the standard-issue middle-aged white guy) an assortment of bleeps, black bars and pixelations. This army of suppression forms a daunting first line of defense against suggestions of rogue subject matter. But despite this menagerie of bowdlerizing special effects, the ideas behind such mischievous words invariably permeate the broadcast. Even when the host’s middle finger abruptly turns blurry, any person with a basic understanding of object permanence has received his message. Similarly, nearly all asterisks are preceded by an F and followed by a K, leaving no doubt in the mind of the viewer as to the content of the word. In both cases, the individual conveyed his or her idea, and language at heart remains a method of conveying ideas. So unless we suddenly encounter a national shortage of the letters U and C, why bother with censorship shenanigans in the first place?

Words do not exist in a vacuum. In order to truly eliminate the idea transmitted through a phrase or gesture, you must not only remove the physical components involved, but also the context behind it. And given our apparent preference toward censoring seemingly natural or harmless ideas, perhaps our tendency for suppression should be the only thing worth suppressing.

Reuven Bank is a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences. He can be reached at rbankdbk@gmail.com.