Share your ideas on curbing profanity

July 30, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

The column I wrote last week about the proliferation of profanity has generated a ton of response. Most came from people who feel as I do - not pleased at being forced to overhear conversations that are sprinkled with the "f" word in the same way that you or I might sprinkle sugar on our corn flakes.

One man said he'd be glad to go with me as I confronted people about their rough talk. I thank him for that, but that would be an endless task because this phenomenon is what the social scientists call "learned behavior."

What that means is that if I hear my father speak and act in a certain way, then I'll conclude that it's okay, until someone convinces me that it's not. One of the people who called me after my column ran described a scene in which one small child in her neighborhood ran home to tell her mother that her brother had used the "f" word.


"Why should anybody be surprised? His father uses it all the time," she said.

How do I convince that father and all the other people that such words are not acceptable in everyday conversation? I had thought about having cards printed to hand out to those who I hear using profanity in public, but that's still a bit confrontational. What I want is a way to convince these people to think about what they're saying.

After a week, I'm still not sure how to do that, so I've decided to ask readers for their opinions and reward the best answer.

So tell me, in 100 words or less, how I can get people to think about the fact that profanity is not only offensive, but terribly unoriginal.

The prize will be a $50 ticket in a raffle for a seven-day Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas and Key West. Only 300 tickets will be sold. It's a trip that you can take on any one of the following dates next year: April 25, May 2, May 9, May 23, May 30, Sept. 5, Sept. 19, Oct. 3, Oct. 10 and Oct. 24.

The trip will include accommodations aboard ship for two people, with transportation from Hagerstown to Baltimore included.

Just to be clear, if you win this letter-writing contest, you will not win a cruise, but a chance at winning a cruise, a chance that would otherwise cost you $50.

All proceeds of the raffle will go to the Parent-Child Center, a Washington County United Way agency that works to prevent child abuse. For more information, call the center at 301-791-2224.

Send entries to Letter Contest, Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD, 21740. Entries must be here by the end of business on Friday, Aug. 8.

If you e-mail entries to, please include your name, address and daytime phone number.

An editorial in The Daily Mail of July 22 took issue with Michael Travieso, the Maryland's People Counsel, for his proposal to help local governments deal with electricity deregulation, the full effect of which will be felt when rate caps begin expiring in 2004. (The Allegheny Power cap is in effect until 2008.)

The editorial said that it would be better for local governments to band together to purchase power for residents than for each to go it alone. That's just what we have in mind, Travieso said in a follow-up phone call.

But the law now prohibits governments from acting on residents' behalf unless they go to court first. For straightening that out, we thank Travieso, who also promised to put me in touch with someone in his office knowledgeable about the current natural gas situation. In may be July, but cold weather will be here before we know it, so stay tuned.

If you read Andrew Schotz's fine package of stories this past Sunday on the proposed anti-pit bull ordinance, you may have noticed the one sidebar in which he wrote about how one American pit bull terrier that had been frolicking for the camera suddenly lunged at the photographer's face. Yes, another breed could have done the same thing, but all things being equal, I'd rather deal with a cocker spaniel lunging at my face than a pit bull.

Like his Maryland counterpart Robert Ehrlich, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is not having a good first year in office. Like Ehrlich, who faces a Democrat-dominated legislature, Democrat Rendell must deal with a legislature ruled by the GOP.

Both legislatures have said "no" to a series of initiatives proposed by their respective chief executives, leading to stalemates. In both cases, lawmakers seem unwilling to consider ideas that don't conform to their party's slogans, a fact that may lead to major cuts in school funding. What a legacy!

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