June 12th, 2012
10:58 AM ET

Massachusetts town puts $20 fine on profanity

The residents of Middleborough, Massachusetts, have had enough of this *#%@&!

And on Monday night they voted to make those who curse put their money where their potty mouths are - to the sum of $20, that is.

Police in the town of 22,000 will be writing tickets bearing fines in that amount to those who foul its public places with profanity after residents voted 183-50 Monday night that they were mad as *#%@& and weren't going to take it anymore.

Overheard on CNN.com: What the $%#;!? Choice words for town's profanity fine

"If I didn't hear 10 kids drop the F-bombs between my store and a block and half I would be shocked," local business owner Mimi Duphily told CNN affiliate WHDH. She was one of those who pushed for cops to clean up the *#%@&.

Not everyone was pleased with the plan.

“This comes under the context of trying to legislate morality or good parenting,” resident Adam Bond told those gathered at the annual town meeting Monday night, in the town that calls itself the "cranberry capital of the world."

So what words are over the line in Middlleborough?

That will be at the discretion of police, but they'll be directing their enforcement efforts at those using profanity to accost others, Officer Steven Nelson said Tuesday.

“It's not going to be just someone walking down the street dropping the F-bomb; it's going to be when you're actually making it uncomfortable for everyone else,” Duphily told WHDH.

Note that Middleborough is only 38 miles from Boston and Fenway Park, where Red Sox fans bestowed a profane nickname on New York Yankee Bucky Dent after the light-hitting shortstop homered in the seventh inning of a tiebreaker game in 1978.

Call him Bucky "Bleeping" Dent in Middleborough and it'll cost you $20.

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Filed under: Crime • Massachusetts
soundoff (500 Responses)
  1. macthedog

    typed holding down the option key on a mac

    June 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. DisabledVet

    YOU CANNOT DICTATE to American Citizens what YOU believe is RIGHT or MORAL. I have a better suggestion! Ignore it...GROW UP. America is not about me having to make you happy with listening to what I say! I COULD CARE LESS whether you like my profanity or not! As a DISABLED VET, I have earned the right say what ever I want at anytime! If you don't like it, turn around and walk the other way. You have NO RIGHTS at all to DICTATE what someone can say! This is NOT legal and will not stand for long! I fought for NOT only the 1st Amendment, but the right to believe in WHAT EVER I WANT. In MY personal BELIEFS there is NOTHING wrong with using profanity! Jesus #%$# CHRIST...GET OVER YOURSELVES PEOPLE!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • hikingalaska3739

      there is not a big enough like button. well said.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phoenix05

      Amen! Thank you for serving this country and protecting us!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaden

      Well put :0

      June 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. stopthemadness

    It's funny but most people don't know the f word is a Christian word created in the 1500 by shortening the term unlawful carnal knowledge but now they want to make the word illegal and fine people. Sorry but my freedom of speech will trump your law of attrition.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • QS

      Fornication Under Consent of the King!

      June 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. QS

    Good thing I'm not a cop in that town....I might just make it my discretion to fine any person who calls another person a "sinner"!

    June 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Laura

    How is this not a violation of free speech. They are not harming anyone with it. And for those of you who think swearing is so horrible and wrong and shouldn't be used, grow up and read some classic literature. Swearing helps add tone, helps express emotion. Sure don't go up and swear at children that could be disturbing the peace but if I have a bad day at work and am out having drinks with friends, I should be able to say "What the f#@$ was that caller thinking"

    June 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Phoenix05

    This law isn't going to stand up well for movie theaters. They would go out of business. I sometimes wonder how much thought is actually involved before any law is actually past. I tend to think it's on impulse.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mikescouch

    On the creative side I bet interesting ones will pop up.. .. fishpaste! barnacles!

    June 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Angela

    Ok I get the whole freedom of speech argument most people quote here, but truly there are limitations to EVERY rule. For example, let's say I decided to walk down the street completely naked...now I should have the right to wear or not wear anything I want. But I can't I would be arrested. How about being drunk in public...if your not driving a vehicle or bothering anyone, why is it illegal. The point is people, people have a right to choose what they want in their states or hometowns. Obviously the vote was successful! There are limits to every right you have! Hell, you can't even kill yourself in this country because its illegal! HA!

    June 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • allanhowls

      Your examples are rather extreme. It has been clearly defined that profanity is not the same as obscenity. Like it or not, it's protected speech. We don't need laws to protect what's non-controversial or difficult. If we don't protect that, then free speech is meaningless. This is clearly overstepping boundaries by a bunch of bluenoses who have decided what's best for everyone else.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug Ortiz

      This has already been through the court system and found to be protected speech. Do I agree? No. But stop wasting taxpayer money on things like this and try and get the law changed if that is your deisre. I for one would join your effort. But don't waste time and resources on something that we know for a fact is unenforceable. The Police can spend their time in better ways than eavesdropping on classless people and determining if the profanity is being used in an "attack" on a person. Lets wake up. Its not a perfect world but it is reality.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really Jersey

      The limit to a person's rights is usually reached when it conflicts with another person's rights. Obscene language forces s3xual knowledge upon others who may be either innocent of such knowledge, or unwilling to receive such s3xual content. Since euphemisms exist for every obscenity that would not alter an innocent's status, the person desiring to curse has a perfectly legal alternative to mental s3xual force. Communities do have a right to set social norms, so it looks like this law is legal. They just need to broaden their vocabularies & exercise self restraint.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob S.

      Angela,
      Walking naked and being drunk are not SPEACH. they are actions and are very different. (though maybe it would be nice if you did walk naked.) you point would be the usual, "Fire" in a crowded theater. That is not legal for safety reason. The problem is when the GOVERNMENT censors speach based on the CONTENT. That is what free speach is all about.
      SUre cursing is annoying and childish - but the government should not decide that.
      Also, threatening behavoir is not legal. So threatening speach is illegal because it puts others in danger.

      June 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • UncleJohn

      The real reason is that oppression only increases the desirability of the oppressed object. 50-100 years of heavy oppression on the f word has only served to propel it to tip of everyone's tongues.

      If the old testament God had painted a sign that read, 'THOU SHALL NOTE EAT THE APPLE," the paint wouldn't have had time to dry...

      June 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Doug Ortiz

    Personally, I have a strong distaste for the way foulness has crept into our everyday language. I would prefer not to hear the degree of proganity used in everyday life. However it is a form of protected speech. And it is a waste of taxpayer dollars for this to be on a ballot or for paid politicians to be trying to score points on what they know is an uneforceable law. Just how much was spent to bring this issue up and could not our taxpayer dollars be better spent?

    June 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really Jersey

      Public profanity alters an innocent's status in a forced manner without consent. Can these "our rights are more important than everyone else" people, give innocence back to the ones they violate? What about the innocents or the unwilling? What about THEIR rights?

      June 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mikescouch

    give into this, and soon you will not be able to voice an opinion, whats next we all have to wear uniforms.. spandex for everyone!

    June 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Really Jersey

    This law has already been on the books for decades. They are simply making it enforceable. An individuals rights end where harm occurs to others. Obscene language forces s3xual awareness upon the innocent or unwilling, altering their mental status in a negative way. Bawdy on the other hand uses innuendo or euphemisms to avoid harm to the unworldly. If an individual does not already have that s3xual knowledge it will not force a s3xual education upon them.
    As my librarian grandmother once said; " There are enough words in the English language for an intelligent person to thoroughly insult anyone, without ever having to descend to vulgarity.".
    Obscenity was banned in my high school during the years I attended. It was an expulsion level offense. We also had a demerit system for discipline that awarded a detention when 10 demerits were acquired. I told my biology instructor to perform a physiologically improbable action involving the anterior & dorsal portions of his lower anatomy. Although he badly wanted to have me expelled by the Vice Principal; I received my 3rd(and last) demerit of that school year for the offense of disrespect to a teacher.
    These days offensive people might be asked if their parents are finally going to get married, or reassured that I would never say anything bad about their mother because I deeply admire "Lassie". Neither of those statements would cause me to pay a dime in fines! If I can tell a teacher to "talk" himself without invoking the law, it does not limit my freedom of speech in any measurable fashion. There ARE euphemisms for every obscene word. Enforcing this law might actually raise their low language skills.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jack

    awww Hamburgers, no more swearing...

    June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NeoGraphix

    This has the same feel as in the movie Demolition Man where people were given tickets for cursing. Curse enough and you'll have enough to use for toliet paper.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. igoryok

    I think lying is offensive. Surely many moral people will agree with me. Perhaps we should give the police discretion to intervene and fine anyone for stating anything that sounds like a lie, That way they can crack down on those teenage boys telling girls they love them when they are merely using it to score.

    I wonder if the prohibition only applies to English. If some parent has a child taking Italian or Russian, will I get fined for cursing in a different language and how will local PO be able to enforce it?

    June 12, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rock-iteer

    I would really like to read how this law is worded. So you can't says "those words" in public. Can you print them on a T-shirt that states your opinion of the law and wear it? If you can't print them on a T-shirt, can they be printed in a book that you are carrying? Probably just as well that Ray Bradbury died before this happened or it might have killed him.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
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