Sunday, October 28, 2007

If There's A Law Against This, Then I Am Way Overdue For An Orange Jumpsuit Fitting

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:

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!


  1. Uh...she was in her house? Puhleeze. How is that even fair?! I refuse to watch my mouth at home. In public I can almost understand.

    (I'm an old fashioned can opener gal myself. We had an automatic one at home and it just never got the job done. *shrug*)

  2. Yeah, I think if she fights that, she's gonna win. At least, I really hope she wins.

    I cuss quite frequently, and also posess a large vocabulary. So all those that say it's a crutch can suck it. ;)

  3. Regular can openers are the way to go, as long as you get the right one. My mom had two, one of which always worked.

    Oh, and if you don't use four letter words in your vocabulary, you're not using English to its fullest extent.

  4. Anonymous6:30 AM

    My husband grew up with two brothers, went to an all male boarding school, a military academy, and served in the Army. When I curse, he cringes, and he complains about bad language in movies. Go figure.

  5. Anonymous10:30 AM

    Had to come out of my lurking place to make sure you'd seen this ( -- a recent study from the UK indicating that swearing is "good for the workplace". Hey, if it works at the office, you can bet your a** it works at home...

  6. Well, that is just un#$%King believable. How is swearing at a private toilet in one's own house a "public inconvenience"? How will they prove the toilet was annoyed or alarmed? (We have ways of getting you to talk. Open your lid!) The risk to health by a non compliant toilet far outweighs the risk of offense to the ears of a passerby. P.S. Much more important to direct money toward cute plaid pumps than a dumb appliance! The OXO crank can opener is inexpensive, hardy, reliable and doesn't hurt my arthritic wrist. And you can use it in a power outage, so pets don't starve.

  7. Anonymous3:18 AM

    Well, f*ck a d*ck. (Oops, that might cause a public disturbance, don't do that.)

    The article was interesting. I would have at least demanded that the police fix the toilet.

    And speaking of examples of good speech, how about this winning sentence from the article:
    Scranton Public Safety Director Ray Hayes said if anyone feels they were unjustly accused, they can address it before a judge.

    Or maybe they can just address the judge directly, and forget about "it." :-)

  8. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Sweet baby Jebus! The government can get away with illegal wiretapping and lying to start a war where thousands get killed...but a woman can't express a little dismay when a toilet overflows and crap falls onto her shoes? What kind of world is this???

  9. Top 5 Things I Drop The F-Bomb On:

    1. My iPod. ie-"Why can't iTunes "find" my fucking shit?

    2. The plastic ring at the top of my snapple green-tea bottles. ie- "i get it, it is not broken and thus fresh, why cant I fucking break it?"

    3. My doorknob when I can't get the key out. ie- "come the fuck on man, 10 weeks and still..."

    4. The elevator. ie- "What the fuck is the holdup here?"

    5. Staplers. " Fuck you, I only wanted one staple.

  10. Anonymous4:06 PM

    So, Nance, is it one or the other?

    If I promise not to say F*** or S***, can I use irregardless, between you and I, and Where she at?

    Let me know because I have a lot of good $%)*@*&% I could say....

  11. nancy--swearing does not preclude proper usage. please feel free to engage in both. in fact, you are urged to.

    the donnage--whew! now you can add "The Dept. of Nance" as #6.

    wordgirl--i can only assume your query is a rhetorical one. else, i must answer "one in the grip of a republican president." we're working on that, however; not much longer, and we will have fixed that.

    ortizzle--not to mention the ever-ubiquitous mis-usage of "anyone" as a singular indefinite pronoun antecedent, referred to with "their." always cringeworthy.

    sputnik--i have an adorable red manual can opener--a kitchenaid--which matches my kitchen perfectly. it came with a guarantee, which i promptly lost. it now does not work at all. i have very little hand strength. i will try the oxo on your advice, but does it come in red?

    ap in uk--oh, thank you for delurking! i shall scuttle off to check out that url. there is no shortage of profanity in the lounge at The Rock, let me assure you. we clean it up for the classroom, but let fly in safety over coffee. it feels healthy to me!

    v-grrrl--a touch of the Puritan strain in that bloodline, perhaps. maybe his family intermarried with some of them that fled from Merrie Olde and settled in the Netherlands?

    i.h.--oh, they always start out working just fine. but something sinister is at work here, i mean it!

    gina--lol. that's one i never really used. is it a california thing?

    jenomena--what can i say? i'm a wimp.

  12. If we can't swear in the privacy of our own homes, then where can we swear? Is nothing sacred??!!

  13. Anonymous11:04 PM

    Well, Nance, at your urging, here goes!

    I will say F*** any time I choose regardless of the sensabilities of others.

    Also, just between you and me,I really don't give a S*** where that woman has gone.

    How the F*** was that?

  14. anali--church?

    scarlet--you're alive!!

    nancy--damned good.

  15. I will scream profanities at who/whatever the hell I want! I love profanities.


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