There's a tired old bit of conventional wisdom about profanity being the crutch of people with lousy vocabularies and, quite frankly, I find that to be a load of crap. My command of the English language is something about which I am both inordinately vain and proud, yet I find that, in certain situations, nothing gets it done like good, old-fashioned cussing. Let's face it, swearing feels good. It releases pent-up frustrations, channels anger in a nonviolent direction, and likely rids your body of free radicals and aging phototoxins or some such other junk. It probably saves me approximately eleventy billion dollars annually on expensive spa treatments, cosmetic surgery, and Oil of Olay In A Drum. All that just from saying The F-Word when the button to open the microwave jams. Again.
Imagine my dismay, then, when this news item came to my attention recently:
WOMAN FACES JAIL TIME FOR SWEARING AT TOILET
A West Scranton woman could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300 for allegedly shouting profanities at an overflowing toilet while inside her Luzerne Street home. Dawn Herb, whose potty mouth caught the attention of an off-duty police officer, was charged with disorderly conduct recently, prompting her to fire off a letter to the editor and vow to fight the charge.
Boy oh boy, is this troublesome. There is a sheriff's deputy that lives behind me, catty-corner actually, and when I deliver a blistering philippic to my electric can opener on a semi-weekly basis--the kind that inevitably begins with, "Why, you son-of-a-bitch!" at the top of my voice, it is entirely possible that he can hear me. Actually, it is entirely possible that most of the neighborhood can hear me. I hate this damned can opener. It's one of those "space saver" models that mounts under the cupboard above. I like that part of it. But, for some reason, it only works about a third of the time. The rest of the time it lets go of the can, or it refuses to bite down all the way, forcing me to send the can around and around and around about forty-seven times to get the fricking thing open, or it completely comes apart and I'm left with the entire opener apparatus stuck to the can which is still unopened. Then, the real yelling starts. Please, do not ask me why I have not purchased a new can opener. I really do not know. What am I waiting for? you may ask. Perhaps I am waiting for Rick to rescue me by coming home one day with a new can opener of his own accord. Perhaps my natural stubbornness and innate frugality are merely winning this war. After all, as often as I use this can opener, is it worth it to buy a new one? And let me stave off any queries regarding the Usage Of A Manual Apparatus. None of those in the house are operational, either. I know! It's like the Dept. is the place where can openers go to Exact Their Revenge! Sigh. But I digress.
And now, thanks to poor Dawn Herb of West Scranton, I have to worry about starting a shocking career as a criminal, led down the path of wrongdoing by a kitchen appliance. Her citation accuses her of "using obscene language or gestures with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly (creating) a risk". This sounds like a lot of b.s. to me. And it does to Ms. Herb as well. “There was no intent to do anything,” Ms. Herb said. “I just feel so violated and irritated ... I don’t even have a criminal record.”
What recourse do habitual users of the more blasphemous invective have, now that we have been threatened with police action? Must we change our ways? Are we to cower in our homes, shut our windows, lower our voices, gargle with cologne to sweeten our jeremiads and lighten our tirades? No, says Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union based in Philadelphia. “It cannot be the basis for a citation. You can’t prosecute somebody for swearing at a cop or a toilet,” she said. “We bring one of these cases a year and sue some police departments because they do not remember that they are not the language police.”
Hear, hear! If there must be Language Police, then let them do the Real Work Of The Language That Must Be Done, such as stamping out "irregardless" or the improper use of apostrophes to make common nouns plural or the constant misuse of "it's" as a possessive. Good God, there's a helluva lot more for them to do than pick on a few of us cussers!