The Salem (Mass.) News reported last week that Danvers High School parents recently received an automated call from the principal warning that students who say or display the word “meep” at school could face suspension.
We’ve heard lots of those words over the years at the SPLC. From George Carlin’s infamous and time-tested seven to the latest, “inventive” rap lyric.
But “meep?” Well, that was a new one.
DHS students interviewed by the paper were equally perplexed.
“No one really knows,” said sophomore Melanie Crane.
It turns out, according to the definition listed in The Urban Dictionary, that the word is:
“The most versatile word in the English language, or in fact any language!”
It is also, reportedly, the sound that Beaker, a character on The Muppet Show makes.
The principal at Danvers High School told The Salem News that it wasn’t just about the word.
“It has nothing to do with the word,” Principal Thomas Murray said. “It has to do with the conduct of the students. We wouldn’t just ban a word just to ban a word.”
He did not provide more details about the conduct to which he referred to, but did tell the newspaper that the students were not using the term to harass other students or teachers.
He did say that the phone calls home were an attempt to stop some sort of “disruption” being planned on Facebook — a disruption that Murray said never occurred.
Facebook does include a group called Meep, which includes a few Danvers High School students. It is listed under the category, “Just for Fun — Totally Random.”
(Interestingly, when The Salem News first reported the story last week it noted the group had 370 members. Today, that number was 1,188.)
This is not the first time a random utterance has sparked a school controversy. I recall a similar brouhaha surrounding the use of the ever-versatile “Whomps!“ (as in “That Whomps!”) by TJ Detweiler, the wise-beyond-his-years character on the brilliant cartoon “Recess,” produced by Disney and originally airing Saturday mornings on ABC. Detweiler purposely invented it as a “word that will never get us in trouble” to safely express his frustrations while at school. Sadly, TJ found himself in deep water when Principal Prickly and recess supervisor Miss Finster, neither of whom had ever heard the word before (“Who the heck is “Whompy Whomperson?” Prickly asks aloud), nevertheless deemed it a cuss word and punish him for it, starting a scandal that leads all the way to the board of education. Fortunately, that controversy (unlike the eerily similar events at DHS) never left the confines of cartoon world.
Well, because it was a cartoon.