Friday November 21, 2014

Are bylaws on profanity a good idea?


He said

There is a small city in Massachusetts that has decided to implement a city-wide swear jar, fining individuals who swear in public.

This isn’t some backwater town with three houses either; it’s a small city moderately larger than Estevan. The economy is in bad shape, we all get it, but there are better ways for public offices to raise money: toll roads, calling in overdue book charges or just a good old-fashioned property tax raise.

Swearing is a funny thing. My mom hates it, absolutely hates swearing. When my siblings and I swear, she always says something about how we don’t have to use “those words.” She’ll mention something about how she grew up with my grandpa, cussing six ways to Sunday, and it didn’t influence her enough to start barking like a sailor.

I recall coaching a bantam hockey team of 13 and 14-year-old boys. The staff consisted of me, another coach and a couple of parents. The parents had heard enough F-bombs and brought up the idea of a swear jar. At the end of the year, the most profane players would be buying the team pizza, and maybe the coaches a case of beer.

It was maybe an OK idea, because the money would just be used for a team party, but the reasoning I thought was a little off. Every second word out of these players’ mouths was a swear word, while over the years I have cut down to about one in five, and my mother is oh so very proud of me.

The parents said the players were swearing so much the words didn’t mean anything anymore, as though when they were younger they swore creatively, only for real emotional impact. I always just thought that if they don’t mean anything anymore, there isn’t a problem with saying or hearing those words.

The swearing bylaw follows the same idea, but if swearing is such a problem, and a harmless one at that, maybe we should just let people go nuts. If the words lose their meaning, there’s no longer a problem.

She said

Freedom of speech is an important part of being a Canadian citizen. I’d say that it’s probably one of my favourite rights, considering it’s one I exercise every single day. And so do most (all?) people.

So taking away that right by controlling what words people can’t say in public isn’t right. Swearing may be rude and unkind, but it’s unfair to fine someone for expressing himself/herself.

Sure, there’s the danger of a child hearing you cursing like crazy when you’re waiting outside 7-Eleven on a weekend evening. But there’s also that same danger on TV, online, at home, at family members’ homes, etc. There’s no way to effectively censor every single outlet that can bring bad words to the ears of your offspring.

If you’re trying to do so, maybe you need to consider your own life. Teaching children what is right and what is wrong is more important than trying to keep all the world’s evils out of their lives. There’s a whole wide world of bad words and bad people, and parents can’t censor everything their children interact with.

Consider the banning of books. Banning a book makes it more appealing. Putting something on a list that says “society has deemed this inappropriate for you” makes tons of people want it more. I imagine that banning certain words will be the same.

I remember being a kid and pulling on my lips when I said “apple” so it sounded like a profanity, just because I felt like a huge rebel. I knew that my parents would give me all kinds of heck if they knew what I was up to. This is the same thing, as far as I’m concerned.



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