June 12th, 2012
10:05 PM ET

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

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Some would say it's a bunch of #$%&, while some will swear it's sorely needed. Commenters used all kinds of punctuation marks in their opinions about a town's 183-50 vote requiring police to issue $20 tickets for those who curse in public places. Police say they'll be directing their enforcement efforts at those using profanity to accost others.  The unscientific reader poll on the story seemed to indicate that plenty of readers would defend the right to use salty language; commenters went back and forth about personal responsibility and freedom.

Massachusetts town puts $20 fine on profanity

The town in question is Middleborough, Massachusetts. One commenter claiming to be from there was not happy.

pray: "I am a bit ashamed of my hometown for passing this. This makes a mockery of a town once known for its tolerance. I have always predicted the train that brought people into Middleborough would come to no good. First they wanted houses near cranberry bogs saying it was quaint, then they wanted them closed cause of dusty dirty roads and noise. Now, they want to legislate speech? Such a sad day for a town with a great history."

This reader had a different view.

Mike: "Good for them. These rude, crude and obnoxious teenagers need to learn how to act in public. If they don't, hit 'em where it hurts most, in the wallet. It belittles the human race to hear people talking such trash. But, you are how you speak. Have a nice day."

One reader chuckled at the thought of people not swearing in a town about 38 miles from Boston.

Play ball: "Can't wait until the next Red Sox game ... because I am sure when the umpire blows a call ... Middleborough residents are gonna blow their rent money cursing at the TV screen."

A very Honest Abe gave us his uncensored thoughts.

Abe Lincoln: "Every single person that voted YES on this should be arrested and tried for treason. We have our government crapping all over our civil liberties, we don't need idiotic citizens doing the same thing. So happy to see that the 'United Corporations of America' way of politics is making its way to small town USA."

If everyone would behave, we wouldn't need all these rules.

nisroc00: "Seriously, I swear a lot but there is also a time when I know not to swear. At work in back in shop the guys do not care but then they do not use the F word every second word either. Coffee break it gets even lighter almost no swearing out of respect to those that do not like to here it. Point is if one would respect the rights of other there would not be a fine for swearing, and problem with kids these days if they do not discipline from momma and daddy. It is all about teach selfish people respect."

Is this a case of big or small government?

realtalker: "lol. I always tell people, big government is the least of our problems. It is small government that has the real power to oppress. Ticketed for language? lol. Wow. And the citizens apparently were the ones that wanted it. Haha. I still haven't processed this one fully yet."

This reader said we have fought for our rights.

Clint: "Totally violates the First Amendment. Profanity is protected. Harassment is not. You can't ticket someone for playing an album or for a ringtone. This is ridiculous. Grow up America. We're not going to PG-rate the world for you Nancy-boys. And how about you grow some (courage) and tell those punks to shut up if you don't like what they're saying. Instead, you hide behind litigation and legislation like bottom-feeders instead of confronting the issue and correcting it. And people wonder what's wrong with our country. Moral majority violates the very First Amendment in the bill of rights simply because they can't tell a group of punks to shut up. Shameful. That men and women have shed blood for those rights, and you can't even open your mouth for them."

Does it matter who hears?

copanut: "I have mixed feelings. It's clearly a violation of the First Amendment if the context is private conversation. Once the conversation becomes public, those within earshot also have rights that should be taken into consideration, along the order of 'disturbing the peace.' "

What is offensive?

rdstrahs: "My question is, what is considered an offense and what is not? I mean my friends kid got sent home from elementary school one day for saying the word 'Butt,' not even the 'A' word, but 'B U T T.' So, what would this law consider a bad word? Is it limited to the standard four-letter words? I mean will I get a ticket for saying the words 'pig' and 'bacon' because they are derogatory towards police? I mean what if I said the 'A' or 'B' words in the context of the animal and not in a demeaning context, and was talking about the animals specifically, would I still get a ticket? I think the idea of it is total 'B S' personally ..."

Another view:

Lynda Elaine: "Really? Kind of like obscenity? I know it when I see it? This so won't hold up in a court. Another complete waste of taxpayer money as this plays out in the court system."

Person of Interest: "Agreed. What is a curse word? Is crap? My mother hates the word suck. Is that going to be added to this list? Have these people looked up the Urban Dictionary? There's stuff on there I'd have no idea what it was because it was made up in the streets. Same thing will happen here."

But wait, is this typical Boston?

PEDO BEAR: "They're Bostonians, what do you expect?"

Sotzume: "Middleborough is NOT Boston....and Boston would never put up with that kind of ridiculous law. If you are implying that the law is a 'liberal' thing, how wrong you are. Middleborough is a very conservative town, yes, even in bluer than blue MA, we have our conservatives and has nothing at all to do with Boston. This is typical of conservatives to try and legislate morality and turn over power to the police of all people. All the while screaming about 'smaller' government ... well, except when it comes to shoving their so-called 'morality' down other people's throats. And by the way ... that screen name has to go ... does it mean you are a pedophile hairy fat man?"

This reader suggested a few substitute words.

Cathy: "OK, remember when you go to Middleborough, use the following words so you won't get a ticket:
Sugar Honey Iced Tea
Fudge Nuts
Any other words you can think to replace those horrible words!!"

Some complained about swearing in popular culture, while others said it is unavoidable.

Dale: "Question: have any of you listened to the profanity CDs kids are listening to today? HATE RAP boom boom boom boom you hear all the time the F word, the 5B word, the N-word, **x, money, violence, why isn't there anything being done about that profanity."

saywhat: "Profanity is now an accepted part of our culture. Movies, television, stage, stand-up comedy, in public. More vulgar the language,  more larger the audience. Passing laws like this would just ridicule the effort itself."

Or should people lighten up?

Mike: "This law is asinine. Nobody has the right not to be offended."

Like it or not, language is important.

Ron Long: "I wish we lived in a world where it didn't make a difference, but we don't. Even getting a job requires good communication skills, dialect, accent, and grammar: 'I ain't 'a' going,' (I am going), 'Where you at?' (Where are you?)
It shouldn't matter, but it does. So, I'm all for it! The 'F' word seems to be a trend, now, among the younger generation. Get rid of it."

Remember the seven words you can't say on TV?

Phoenix05: "Well F$% that S#$@%. If I gotten a ticket for saying F@#$ $%@ and #%$ S#%@ I would sue for having my civil right violated. What would George Carlin do?"

Other examples of speech ...

DamianKnight: "This will get overturned. The Supreme Court has already stated over and over again that offensive speech is still protected as free speech. Otherwise, how would the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church be able to protest?"

Should people be more active?

KevininPHX: "It's the reason why we are where we are. Most people are too unconcerned with what's happening to even bother to get informed. Much less actually vote on something. Sad."

This person used gun laws as an example.

Troy: "Well, if preventing people from being offended is a valid reason to limit the First Amendment, I expect all Republicans to back gun control laws that prevent the sale of any guns but bolt-action hunting rifles, and require hunters to submit to drug tests before entering the woods each day. Those rifles would be more than enough for home defense, so don't bleat to me about that. After all, the Second Amendment just states that we have a right 'to bear arms,' not what kind of arms are allowed, right? Or how about we leave both amendments alone and people stop writing laws that will cost their community thousands in legal fees should they ever be challenged?"

People sometimes curse in the military.

Person of Interest: "Ever heard the phrase curses like a sailor? I served my country in the Army and was in the infantry. If you don't drop an F-Bomb to most of the 18-year-old soldiers, they don't think you're serious. So my filter is a little off now. But your telling me if I happen to go through this town on a trip and some cop is gonna right me out a fine? Not only will I not pay it but if they touch me after I laugh and throw the ticket in the trash right in front of them, they will have to add assaulting an officer to the charge. What happened to free speech? The limitations put on speech are few and far between. As long as you are not provoking violence or defaming someone, you can pretty much say whatever you want. If I lived in this town, I'd buy a shirt that said F*** You in big letters. 'Cause technically you didn't say it. It's like libel vs. slander lol."

Childhood memories came right back.

Jeremy: "It was not so long ago that the common practice among parents was to wash their children's mouths out with soap for using profanity. It was also common for teachers to punish students for using profanity in the classroom through various tasks such as writing, "I will not use profanity in the classroom" 100 times on the chalkboard or by serving detention. The vast majority of adults used to correct children when they used profanity. Many of these same adults also made the attempt to censure their own language around children.

In today's society, the tables have turned and for the worse. I see many adults still trying to curtail their use of profanity around children, but so very many more adults don't bother and are very open and boisterous with their profanity. Children model the behavior of the adults around them. While this idea of charging citizens $20 for cursing seems very radical and very much an infringement of civil rights, it is an attempt to make the community more civilized.

Yes, it is everyone's right to use whatever language they want to, to print whatever they want to, etc. We are becoming a nation of 'teenagers' who do whatever they feel like just because they can and consider it fun when others disapprove. Adults are behaving in this fashion. Many adults are not parenting their children and seem to be of the opinion that it is up to the school teachers to teach children the values of society and how to be better citizens. While teachers can make a difference in the lives and behavior of children, their hands are tied and their authority undermined. It is the responsibility of parents to teach moral values to their children. When a community has come together, like this one has, and decided on a way to curtail an offensive and common behavior, it is seen as taking away the rights of its citizens instead of empowering parents."

And then, some couldn't believe this was a real story.

Patriarchae: "At first I thought this was satire. You know, like an article by 'The Onion.' It was quite amusing when I read it like that, a good satire on how we as a society are becoming oversensitive to silly things and as a result are beginning to overlegislate our rights away. But then I realized it wasn't satire. And now I'm sad. This will not hold up in courts, period. What a waste of time and money."

Dakota2000: "I predict a spoof on SNL in the near future. It would be hilarious ..."

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Boston • Massachusetts • Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Hamsta

    @Banasy thats ok, Americans can't spell pronounce my real last name. Funny thing is these foreign shipmates on these ships at work can. Most of them speak very little english.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Isn't that weird?
      I find the same thing with my last name...
      You should HEAR how it's mangled!
      When a telemarketer calls, and they muck up my name, I tell them, "if you can't pronounce my name, you're sure as heck aren't going to SELL me anything."
      Or, I just say, Lnobody here by that name" and hang up.
      That's if I answer at all!
      My opinion?
      Foreign people are better at pronouncing our names because they have hard-to-pronounce last names themselves.
      Your new phone is cool!
      What kind is it?
      I would love to get a different one...

      June 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat (in a hat)©

    On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have said *^%$&*#. I can see where they might have found that offensive.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Laura

    It's becoming scarier every day to speak at all. There are so many things you can't say.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    I don't see one thing wrong with that Cat Man! 😉 lmao

    June 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mary

    After all times your jokes where posted at the exact moment I needed them, anything you say is fine by me. 🙂

    June 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      Thank you Mary, I do appreciate that. I have to fight these censors all the time with my jokes. Some stay, but usually the funniest ones get took down or enter " moderation limbo ", which usually means they won't be posted at all. But I'll keep trying.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mary

    @ bobcat (in a hat)©,
    And I usually copy/paste them into a word doc, but I've been kinda busy. I'll hafta keep my eyes peeled at all times from now on. The chicken and egg joke was so cute, cause I can picture her yanking the blankets in a huff!!! 🙂

    June 13, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    Oh, anyone will do, Mary, if you say it with a slight accent...lol.
    Actually, I didn't count the characters...I just typed them randomly.
    It does work, though, especially if you sayitallinonebigword.
    I have to do it quietly...library and all... 🙂

    June 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    OMG, you even typed it exactly the same!
    Good eye for detail!

    June 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    What do really thien of Piers Morgan?
    Don't hold back now, lol....

    June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobcat (in a hat)©

    @ PMS

    These buggers on CNN just can't seem to handle the truth. On some subjects I just say what's on my mind from the heart. Nothing derogatory in my comments, but obviously too much to the point.
    Your insights also have been very enlightening. Just keep on with the way you do do it. Some will go through, some won't.
    Who gives a big hairy rats butt about their opinion. At least WE know we're right. ( Now this probably won't go through becaused I dissed them. )

    June 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    I can only imagine what the old ladies would do if they heard RUFFNUTTS mouth... prolly keel over on the spot!
    And C/P Donna ... Copy/Paste. Works most of the time

    June 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Unfortunately, Miss Hecht, I don't have that feature on this phone.

      June 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mary

    Cat Man gets the prize for the best comment of the night on this thread!
    And starting out with "@ PMS" was delish! LMAO !!!!!!!!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat (in a hat)©

    ( Said in a Michael Jackson voice )

    Oh, thank you so very, very much. All you people who have made this honor possible for me, are the greatest fans a man could ever have. ( kisses from his sequined gloved hand )

    June 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. grassfox

    Would this town please publish a list and tell us in public what the exact words are that we cannot say there?
    Thank you.

    June 14, 2012 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. tribes ascend

    I do consider all of the concepts you've presented for your post. They're very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too brief for beginners. May just you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

    July 19, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
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