Doggone those gutter-mouthed louts who foul the air
Mind your tongue!
That command sounds quaint in this era of widespread vulgarity in speech.
But in Middlebourough, Mass., folks who have heard far too many obscenities in public are trying to combat that doggone modern plague with a legal prohibition of foul language.
As Monday’s Wall Street Journal reported, Mimi Duphily of the Middleborough Beautification and Activities Group has been the driving force for cleaning up the gutter mouths in that community. Along with Middleborough Business Coalition Police Chief Bruce Gates, they are asking citizens to grant law enforcement officers the power to issue $20 civil tickets to anyone who “accosts” another person in public with profanity.
The chief said the proposal isn’t aimed at, for instance, a frustrated Red Sox fan who utters cuss words after another Boston defeat.
Instead, it’s designed to deter profane language that delivers a person-to-person affront — including untoward comments directed “at some attractive female walking through town.”
Unfortunately, while the 63-year-old Ms. Duphily has a fair point to make about the “appalling” decline of mannerly speech, her credibility on this issue is undermined by Baby, the pet parrot she keeps in her auto supply store. Baby occasionally does some cussing of her own — though Ms. Duphily points out that she picked up that bad habit from a previous owner.
Meanwhile, assorted legal experts point out that our First Amendment right to free speech severely limits legal attempts to outlaw coarse talk.
The best solution to the problem of vile discourse, of course, lies in a collective realization that we all should mind our manners, not in a collective crackdown by the authorities.
And here in Charleston, repeatedly and deservedly honored as America’s most polite city, we should be especially careful to watch (and hear) what we say.
Otherwise, we will undermine our stellar reputation for courtly conduct — and speech.