There are certain situations in which cursing and swearing simply aren't appropriate. But now, in Middleboro, Massachusetts, the act of being foul-mouthed in public will come with a price -- literally. In fact, those who accidentally let unpleasant words slip from their mouths will now face a $20 fine for each infraction.
On Monday night, residents overwhelmingly approved the measure at a town meeting, voting 185-50 in favor of stopping intentional cussing. The crackdown on profanity, supporters say, has everything to do with protecting public areas and downtown localities, rather than censoring.
Swearing in public has been illegal under a local bylaw since 1968, but it has been rarely enforced, the Associated Press reports. Because of the nature of the law, the infraction would have been handled in the court system -- something that led police officers and others to all but ignore it. The new penalty system essentially decriminalizes profanity, but allows law-enforcement professionals to ticket offenders just as they do traffic violators.
Now, here's the controversial part: The penalty didn't pass with explicit details surrounding which words would constitute as a violation. At the meeting, Police Chief Bruce D. Gates reportedly said that the fine will be given out based on the police officers' discretion. No list of curse words has been drafted.
“I don’t see an issue, we have a lot of things to do. This is not a priority,” Gates said, going on to claim that tickets wouldn't be issued if someone cursed while watching a sports game or hurled expletives after dropping his or her ice cream.
The Wall Street Journal further highlights Gates' feelings on the matter of public cussing:
He isn't targeting ordinary swears, like an understandable expletive uttered after a Red Sox loss. He said he is aiming at offenses like "profane language at some attractive female walking through town." His officers patrol on bikes and can already give tickets for public drinking, rubbish thrown in streets and more. Cursing is another "quality of life" issue, he said.
The responses so far have been intriguing. Twitchy captured and published a number of the tweets that have been sent surrounding the crackdown. We won't share them with you because, well, they're expletive filled. Needless to say, people haven't been too positive about the town's decision thus far. However, some do contend that the cursing has gotten out of control and that intervention was needed.
"The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it," said Mimi Duphily, a civic leader in the local community. "No person should be allowed to talk in that manner."
Duphily's complaints are what kicked off the current crackdown.
What do you think about a ban on public profanity? Let us know, below: