What is this $#%@!? Are you %#$@ing kidding me? South Pasadena became a “cuss-free” zone last week until Friday, March 7. And while it wasn’t as if you would be hauled away to jail for any infringement, to curse in front of Pasadena natives at the time would mean doom by glares and social-annihilation. The first week of every March from now on, will be cuss-free as well.
Earlier this year, St. Charles-A suburb in St. Louis, Mo.,-proposed banning cursing in bars. Similarly, hip-hop presence Russell Simmons advocated for an industry wide censorship of racially and sexually charged lyrics last year.
What the hell is up with all this encouragement for unnecessary censorship? The “when” and “where” of the usage of foul language shouldn’t be government regulated or forced upon someone by threat of social-excommunication. It should be a personal decision governed by three simple, sometimes debatable, rules.
1. You don’t cuss in a “formal” environment: The sentiment behind this rule should be obvious-foul language is generally viewed as rude or uneducated. The only arguable point is what’s formal and what’s not. To that effect, you should ask yourself “Is cursing in this situation going to cost me anything?” Are you going to blow an important job interview because of a slip of the mouth? Will you lose the respect of your elders or other important figures because you don’t know how to speak eloquently? But in a bar-even one in St. Charles-you should be allowed to drink a pint, watch the game, and mumble or shout a few obscenities if you feel the need.
2. Children shouldn’t cuss and so you shouldn’t cuss in front of them: Like smoking, gambling and alcohol-along with most things adults are allowed to do that aren’t necessarily good for them-children should be protected from foul language as long as possible. The argument isn’t whether foul language is foul-because it is. The argument is whether adults should be told when and when not to curse. The cuss-free week in South Pasadena was inspired by 14-year-old McKay Hatch, the founder of South Pasadena High School’s No Cussing Club. This is fine for children, even high school students who need to learn to speak with respect-but to suggest an entire week where a whole city needs to hold their tongue is ridiculous. Adults have earned the right to cuss, just as they have earned the right to vote or enlist in the military, by virtue of living long enough to have accumulated the social awareness to know when to do so.
3. Everything in moderation: This begs the question, how much cursing is too much? This is a judgment call through and through-a personal decision that individuals need to make based on their own experiences. If you have a problem with cussing, go ahead and designate one of those tried and true “Cuss-Jars” where you pay a dollar for every curse word you fling. Join your school’s No Cuss Club, whatever. But do not censor an entire community, and don’t pretend not cursing makes you seem more intelligent. I’ve seen comedians-Richard Pryor comes to mind-make more sense and be more relevant with their foul-mouthed-musings than a vast majority of politicians who will chew your ear off with polite language and empty words.
Cussing isn’t just a big part of the freedom of expression, it’s a practice deeply engraved in the American way. If you employ a cuss-free week, you may as well ban red meat, smoking and gambling too. Let’s ban sex while we’re at it-sex is considered pretty vulgar by some denominations of society. And hell, why stop at a week? Let’s make a Thought-Free month: You don’t think for yourself, you just do what you’re told and marvel at how peaceful and civil the world has become.