DEAR PROFESSOR: Please, can you help clear the good name of Bozo the Clown? For years people have been spreading the false story that either Bozo cussed a kid or a kid cussed Bozo on live TV. The result was that Bozo was supposedly yanked off the air. Didn't that really happen to Uncle Don, a long-ago children's show host? - BOZO

DEAR BOZO: I'm not really sure which Bozo you are, because since 1950, at least 180 different people have portrayed Bozo the Clown on children's television shows across the nation. But I do know that at one time or another, some form of a story that I call "Bozo's Blooper" has been told about most of them."Bozo's Blooper" is not one story, really, but two. However, the similarity of the two tales, and their link to Bozo the Clown, demands that they be regarded as different variations of a single legend.

The first version of the story focuses on a child who is a contestant on a local Bozo the Clown TV program. The child misses a shot in some game of dexterity and utters a curse. When Bozo attempts to comfort him, the child snaps, "Cram it, clown!" The outburst goes out over the airwaves, shocking the clown's young audience - and no doubt the parents too.

In the second version of the story, the offensive words are uttered by Bozo himself. The clown, exasperated by his young contestants, calls one of them an unprintable name. The comment goes out over the air, and irate parents call the TV station to protest. Before long, the local Bozo the Clown show is canceled.

Former Bozo actors and agents deny that the child's remark story is true, and the many variations I've heard support this. I've heard it told about Bozos in Baltimore, New Orleans and Los Angeles; I've heard that Bozo called the child's remark a "Bozo no-no"; and I've heard that the kid said "ram it" or "shove it" instead of "cram it." I've heard that the child was playing a ball-in-bucket game, a block-building contest and a quiz game; and I've been told that "Cram it, Clown!" became a generic comeback among the generation that grew up watching Bozo.

But I've never seen a videotape of the incident. Nor have I heard the story told by anyone who was in the TV studio when the alleged event occurred. Nor has anyone telling the story claimed to have witnessed the events firsthand on TV. The storytellers, as happens so often with urban legends, invariably heard the anecdote from friends.

An article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in October 1986 reported: "(Former clown) Bob Bell says that the great story about a kid missing Bucket No. 6 and telling Bozo to perform an impossible act is a myth."

The second version of the legend has also been told to me by sources from coast to coast. They attribute the story to periods from the 1950s through the 1970s. Each of them knows someone who knows someone who actually heard Bozo - or Uncle Gus, Uncle Bucky, Captain Bob, Uncle Bob or even Art Linkletter - say something naughty.

I suspect that there is some confusion here with Buffalo Bob of the "Howdy Doody" television series, on which a clown named Clarabelle did appear (but never spoke, and certainly did not swear).

A similar story is recounted by Hal Morgan and Kerry Tucker in their book "Rumor!" The book says that a children's television-show host was taken off the air after he said, "That ought to shut the little . . . up!" on live television. But the authors insist the event never occurred, as do authors of other reference works on the broadcast media.

You're right, in a way, Bozo, that the second version of "Bozo's Blooper" was transferred to the television clown from an event attributed to the early children's radio-show host who called himself Uncle Don.

I don't think Uncle Don said it either, but that will require another column to explain. I hope this much will hold all the little rascals who tell tall tales about Bozo for now.- "Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is now available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to him in care of the Deseret News.