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soapinmouth

Sunday, after mass, we stopped for breakfast during which we were subjected to the loud ranting of a man sporting a mouth full of gold teeth who clearly had no self-respect and no respect for anyone around him. Every other word he spoke was an obscenity, not quietly spoken to his breakfast companion, but practically shouted so as to make sure he was the center of attention for all present, oblivious to the discomfort of parents with children or other adults who were offended by his language.

I find such behavior deplorable and can’t help but wonder what happened to the days when someone like that would have been asked to leave the establishment, and/or taken to jail for disturbing the peace. One such word was enough for my cousins and I to get the, “Go pick me a switch” admonishment, we’d probably still be wailing from the beating we’d have gotten after such a spectacle. He also suffers under the delusion that the world owes him a living, if his obscenity-laden tirade about having to buy his own car was any indication.

Having not been born with an inherent entitlement complex, we instinctively looked up and rolled our eyes at the same moment, and the memory of walking into a bank at 17 years old and convincing the banker I was responsible enough to borrow money for a car on a 90-day note, without a co-signer, came flooding back. I saved practically every penny of my salary and had that car paid off by the end of the 90 days. No one ever told me I should sit back, collect government assistance, and expect someone to buy me a car. Frankly, I’m disappointed; my life might have turned out quite differently had I known I didn’t need to work every day to pay for what I want.

The guy’s potty mouth naturally had me looking for 18th century references of such behavior which I will share.

“Swearing and Cursing is always prosligate, but the most prosligate is that which is practiced in good humour, and without provocation”. Prosligate was defined as a licentious, dissoulate person. Licentious, in turn, is defined as, “Disregardful of the laws or principles of morality”. That fits the present situation perfectly. I guess his mom never used the, “Go pick me a switch”, theory of child rearing. – Richardson, Samuel. A Collection of the Moral Instructive Sentiments, Maxims, Cautions, and Reflexions. 1755. London. Disney, John. A View of Ancient Laws Against Immorality and Profaneness.

John Disney defined cursing as blasphemy against Men and condemned swearing by God, or Christ, in ordinary conversation [taking the Lord’s name in vain]. Such profanity comprised a large part of the fellow diner’s vocabulary and was an unwelcome assault on my senses, especially having just come from mass.

John Ray called such language a great abuse of speech and outrageous effects and expression of malice and wickedness. I concede the word wicked applied. – Ray, John. The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation. 1722. London.

What was done in times past to control such behavior? Cursers were fined, with the amount of the fine going up with each subsequent incident, and, “Offenders not paying the penalty, to be committed to the house of correction, and kept to hard labour for 10 days”, or set in the stocks for a prescribed number of hours. Any constable who failed to impose the penalty was, himself, fined and/or confined to the house of correction and kept to hard labour for one month. – The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle. June, 1745.

In a country where criminals have more rights than citizens, I suppose it’s too much to hope for that such laws and the enforcement of them might be reinstated.

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