Vice President Cheney said it and the whole world later heard it. He told Sen. Patrick Leahy to "[expletive] yourself."

I hadn't heard this kind of talk since I watched "The Sopranos."

Cheney said the words at a Capitol Hill photo op, but the Senate wasn't in session, so he couldn't be penalized by the Democratic minority.

Let's discuss this like civilized people. The act he proposed is physically impossible. I assume Cheney knew this. If he told Leahy to "buzz off" or "go fly a kite," it would have been politically correct, even in an election year.

I was upset that my four grandchildren heard about it. After it was reported in the papers, one of my grandsons told his brother what he could do to himself.

When I said, "Wash out your mouth with soap," he replied, "If Cheney can say it, so can I."

Fortunately, another grandson said, "I don't want to be president if you have to use foul language."

Since Cheney said it, the word has become part of our family's mantra.

One of the complaints about his use of obscenities is that he is just a heartbeat away from the presidency. He might just lose his cool when delivering a State of the Union speech.

Occasionally people do use the expression, but many say it under their breath when being chastised by their boss or arguing with someone who stole their parking space.

The Washington Post actually spelled out the word, something I hadn't seen before.

What effect will this have on foreign relations? Will the United States tell the French to do what Cheney told Leahy to do?

I heard that Colin Powell used the word in dealing with President Jacques Chirac. I called the State Department. The person who answered the phone laughed and said, "We've been telling the French to 'bleep off' for years."

To our knowledge, President Bush has not publicly told anyone to [expletive] himself, but a White House spokesman said he tells friends to do it, like he used to at Yale.

Cheney says if the president uses such language, then the vice president has to support him. We won't know how much Mr. Bush has used the expression until we hear the tapes from the Oval Office.

Richard Nixon used that expletive the entire time he was in the White House.

Did George Washington use such cuss words? Historians say he didn't, but Andrew Jackson made it part of his vocabulary.

Abraham Lincoln didn't because he was too much of a gentleman.

But Teddy Roosevelt said it to prove how macho he was.

So what does this mean to the country?

It means what it says it means.

We have lost our moral compass. The Cheney people say to "bleep" is not bad if all the VP was really doing was wishing Leahy a nice day.

It is a verb and you can conjugate it -- I bleep, you bleep, we bleep.

I expect to hear quibbling about the word, but it is no big deal.

Telling another person to go "bleep" himself mainly because you don't like him is something we all do sooner or later. I have five people in mind right now, but I am not allowed to reveal their names.

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services