Please Stop That #$% Cursing

June 14, 2012 | By | Comments (0)

Where the hell do you draw the line against swearing? In one Massachusetts town, you’ll pay a $20 fine if you’re caught cursing in public.

Residents of Middleborough, MA voted this week in favor (by a margin of more than 3-to-1) of imposing a fine against profanity, in an effort to crack down on people who curse loudly in public parks.

The residents’ frustration is understandable; nobody likes  ugly language spoken loudly in public places, such as parks, where children are present. But can you fine people for people for saying a word you don’t want to hear? How do you define profanity — is it a word you don’t like, or a word I don’t like?

John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, thinks it’s a bad idea. “It’s an empty, hopeless move. Not to mention plain backward,” he wrote yesterday in a column for CNN. “For one, it’s like trying put out a fire with an eyedropper. The police cannot monitor most public activities.”

And even if they could?

“Americans need to rethink what is considered profanity in 2012,” McWhorter wrote. “We are taught that a certain collection of words is profane, but this no longer makes sense given the readiness with which even the most mild-mannered of Americans use such words.”

Do you swear? What kind of words do you consider curses? Do we need a law against them?

(image via Thenonist)