Where and when to use profanity

Language is in every human culture in the world, whetherspoken, written, drawn or signed; language affects us all. But when doeslanguage become something that must be monitored?

Encarta World English Dictionary defines the word“profanity” as “profane language or behavior that shows disrespect for God, anydeity or religion.”

The issue offoul language is often dismissed as common knowledge. But when, if ever, is itappropriate to use profanity?

Last year, on June 11, residents in Middleborough, Mass. passeda town law that dictated a $20 fine for public swearing. According tonydailynews.com, “Matthew Segal, legal director for the American CivilLiberties Union of Massachusetts, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled thatthe government cannot prohibit public speech just because it containsprofanity.”

State law does allow towns to enforce local laws, but thedecision to ban obscene language could kindle discussion on the FirstAmendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedomof speech,” which profanity happens to fall under.

Although Congress is constitutionally bound to allowfreedom of speech, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governsbroadcasts that air obscene, indecent or profane programming. Popular media andtelevision often influence what Americans see as acceptable behavior.Therefore, spoken profanity is regulated in some areas of the country and inbroadcasting in that the obscenity “must lack serious literary, artistic,political or scientific value” and “must depict or describe, in a patentlyoffensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law,”according to the FCC website.

If you include the dictionary definition of profanity andthe FCC definition, then a lot of material falls into the category of obscenelanguage. The only widely acceptable place to use profanity is in the privacyof your own home, or whilst among others who share the same values as you.