Monday, May 7, 2012


Middleborough, Massachusetts is in the news. The town’s police chief wants to impose a fine on its foul mouthed residents - $20 per curse - as an attempt to curb a way of communicating that has become rampant. If you want details, it’s very easy to find on the Internet.

It didn’t take hearing this story to get my attention on the issue. To curse or not to curse, is a subject that has been prevalent forever.

And by the way, while thinking about profanity, I realized the various ways it can be described. Let’s see: there’s the aforementioned cursing and having a foul mouth; then there’s swearing, cussing, obscene language, indecent language, bad language, having a dirty mouth, having a potty mouth, vulgar language, French (as in, “Excuse my French”) and so on.

I’m not putting myself on a pedestal or being a prude, however, I will say that my husband and I don’t curse in our home. We have children who live with us and we don’t want them to curse. We never had to discuss it or make it a rule; it’s just been innate since we had them. I’m sure Darling Husband has other reasons and so do I, but it’s beside the point in this post.

This decision hasn’t been a big deal; after all, it’s my home and everyone who visits, knows to curb his or her language when my children are around. Actually, most of our visitors don’t even “slip up,” even when the kids aren’t around. The public arena is a different story.

When traveling, we’ve been known to frequent the chain restaurants, along with other vacationers and the locals. On a memorable family outing, the people in the adjacent booth were a little colorful. After dropping the f-bomb two or three times, DH couldn’t stand it any longer. First he told the waiter to say something to them, and he did – timidly - so it continued; as if they just couldn’t control themselves. Sooo… DH got up and went to their table to tell them that his wife and children were behind them at the next table, and for them to “watch their mouths,” as Darling Wife (me) prayed that he didn’t get punched.

Civilized human beings they were – they halted the bad language and quieted down.

I had an occasion to tell my cousin to watch her language, as we were on the other side of the coin having a girls get-together. It was our once-a-year reunion with three more cousins, and we may have been a little excited to see each other… okay, loud. But, we did sit away from everyone else at a table in the rear of the huge all-you-can eat restaurant - and I did - which promptly added two pounds to my a.. – oops, uh… butt; but that’s another story.

(To my nosey kids who are reading this post: “It’s a joke, girls!” An intended contradiction.)

All was good, until a Mommy, Daddy, and Toddlers came and sat two feet away from us. Darling Cousin had gotten deep into the family gossip, when “sh*t” comes out of her mouth. I glanced over to the sweet family to see if there was a reaction.

None that I noticed.

DC dropped another goody. I cringed. Then I uttered that cliché phrase, “Watch your mouth. There are children at the next table.”

My lovable cousin was confused for a second, and then issued a heartfelt apology to me. It was a revelation to her, a woman who does not have kids, that her language might be offensive.

This is a topic that I can speak more about; for instance,  I don’t curse, but I’ll laugh at a good joke that has a bit of cursing in it. Hypocrite? Hmmm… Anyway, I think I’ve said enough.

Swearing, cursing, cussing - whatever you call it…
What do you think?

Image found here.


Mari said...

I really hate hearing foul language, and I feel that it cheapens the person speaking, if you know what I mean. It's not something that's done in our home either, and I respect your husband for having the courage to get up and talk to the people at the restaurant.

MissKris said...

I'm a Christian and I don't swear, tho before I was I had a mouth that could put most sailors to shame. Our home was 'swear-free', too, plus it was the local gathering place for every kid up and down the street. I told them all from the beginning, "You're welcome to play here as long as you don't swear." And it was amazing how the kids abided by that rule, no questions asked. Then one day a particularly obnoxious little boy showed up and it was "f" this and "f" that. I went out on the porch and told him he was welcome but he needed to cut the cuss words. He smirked at me and as soon as I went inside the language started up again, double-time. I opened the door, pointed my finger down the street, and told him, "You're out of here, young man." He couldn't believe it! But a neighbor boy smirked back at him and said, "Told you so!" LOL! I agree with DOES minimize the person doing it. There are so many other beautiful, wonderful words in our language to use as 'filler' to enhance our conversations. And to damn the almighty God is something I find even more offensive than any other swear word in existence.

Judy Thomas said...

I avoid cussing from personal and social discomfort, but at times I will cuss. Cuss words have been around for as along as we have recorded history in every culture and time. Our vocabulary has a depth and richness to it that includes cuss words and that richness would be lessened without them. Cuss words are extremes and express extreme states of being or feeling and are the only words that can do this (think of our discomfort-what other words can cause this?). I think that unnecessary over use of cuss words cheapens them. It is the person who says f this and f that who lessens the impact of these words. The f word can be used: to express disgust over a war, one's diagnosis with a severe illness, or loss of something important, and no other word can do this.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Judy - there are times when no other word will do. I rarely swear in conversation, but occasionally in anger - and when I do, those words are chosen specifically to convey the emotions with which they are charged. I'm good with words, but there are times when emotions overwhelm the ability of language to express them. At those times, a carefully chosen swear imparts all the emotion that language can't otherwise express. Sometimes that word can even be a complete sentence - what other one-word sentence could carry as much meaning or emotion?

yonca said...

Great topic as usual,Anita.
I don't like hearing foul language either. Some people use curse words often. Hate that!
Miss you:) xoxo

Stafford said...

I agree that the use of profanity is inappropriate even in times of extreme circumstances. Having said that, I have told my son on ocassion that he was being a smart a-- and you would have thought that I had used a 12 letter word by his reaction. He reacted that way because, as a rule, we do not use such explicit language and so to him that is cussing.

Ultimately, you must understand that our use of language is in direct correlation to those things that we have allowed to influence us.

It is out of the abundance of the heart that mouth speaks. So, if our heartis corrupt, our speech will be also.

Unknown said...

I'm sure you know from being a long time blog follower of mine that I don't curse and never have. I just don't find value in it. Like Mari, I feel that it cheapens the person who's mouth it comes out of. But, unfortunately, my daughters and bonus kids do curse. When they drop it around us, they are quick to say, "Sorry".

Linda Hensley said...

I'll admit it, I cuss, but to give myself a bit of credit, I don't swear around kids -- usually. There was a time when I was substitute teaching and a couple kids got in a fist fight and I waded in. to break it up. There has to be some kind of exemption when a football player almost takes my head off? Good thing he missed, or I probably wouldn't have been able to swear at him :)

Stephanie said...

I don't curse in front of my kids and won't even allow the use of "crap" or "stupid" however, I do occasionally swear. So?? Guess I need to work on that:)

Hilary said...

I'll admit it, I will use a cuss word when I feel it's necessary, but not around the children. It's bad enough that they repeat everything else I say, verbatim, to whomever will listen. Sure, that's probably a good reason for me to drop the bad language, but sometimes, you just need it. It's like using black pepper versus using sriracha; you need to make a point, add some emphasis and no other word will do. When it's gratuitous, and you are using cuss words the way Valley Girls use the word "like", that's when I have a problme.

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Our children were raised in a home with no foul language. They hold the same standards in their homes but Social Butterflies MIL is a whole other matter.

That said, youngest (almost three) grandson is usin' world that would make a sailor blush. Poor daughter is pullin' her hair out from the roots!

God bless ya and have a splendid day sweetie!!! :o)

Rebecca S. said...

My hubby and I have both been known to curse on occasion, but we were much more careful when our children were younger. We didn't want to be that kind of example. Once when I slipped up and said sh*t in front of them, my eldest said, 'but, Mom, you tell us not to swear!' My response? "Well, son, grownups have earned the right to use a few cuss words now and then to express some particular frustration. You have not." As a result, my kids are not big cussers - the girls, never. The boys? On occasion. I guess they think they are grown-ups now too.
So now that I have fessed up, I will say I cringe when I hear kids using the F word as a continuous adjective for everything. And those who use it tend to use it loudly. I have spoken up on occasion - something like "Excuse me, do you mind not speaking like that in front of my kid?"
Oh the hypocrisy!

Sohailah said...

Anita, can we live by each other so you can be my neighbor? I think you're GREAT! Swearing... I've never heard ny husband swear... impressive, as I am not that impressive... when it's just the two of us and I'm so darn irritated with something. Around children, I don't even like the word s*cks... Which my co-teacher and most of the teachers aroudn me use with great liberality (Middle School level, but I still think it's foul...) I tihnk the words "terrible", "tragic" "awful" still work really well.

It IS easily a hypocritical issue, isn't it? I HATE swearing, and am so irritated when I do it. And isn't it amazing that you find that when you are AROUND someone who does, it's easier to do it yourself?

Ah.... once again.... great topic.

Abby said...

This is a topic I sometimes struggle with. I don't think it's right for us to be cussing at our house, and surprisingly, all of my males abide. But they play profanity-laced video games! I've been known to gasp "my virgin ears!" when I'm in the room with them.

So I know it's nothing they've not heard, but I think in public places like restaurants, stores,etc where there are young kids, people should keep it clean.

Personally, I TRY not to cuss, at least not out loud.

Hilary said...

I have little problem with colourful language if it fits. I don't believe that it ever fits around children and I have shushed others when kidlets are around. Raising my own children was devoid of potty mouth utterances. That having been said, I have one son in the military and the other in the metal music scene. You can imagine what they think they've taught me. ;)

InSeason Mom Cynthia said...

Good for the Middleborough, Massachusetts police chief and good for your hubby for taking a stand against foul language!

Rob-bear said...

Swearing? Sounds like Hell and does't do a damn bit of good. Or so I'm told.

I mean, really! Did you ever hear a Bear swear?

My point exactly.

Buckeroomama said...

Swearing or cussing is not becoming. That said, I do slip up and mutter 'sh*t' sometimes, but not around the kids.

Arlee Bird said...

This is a topic that really strikes a chord with me. I rarely cuss and have very, very rarely used profanity in casual conversation. I hate seeing movies that are laden with obscenities--I think it detracts from the message and the entertainment value of a film.

I hear middle school kids and even younger using language that would have shocked me when I was in high school. I think language has suffered in the past few decades and I mostly blame the free use of bad language in movies and other popular culture. I never heard bad language when I was a kid.

Profanity and obscenity are really unnecessary. I applaud that police chief, but I'm not sure that it would hold up in the courts if someone wanted to fight it.

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