Sorority e-mail writer, N.D. news anchorman: They needed mom's swear jar

The sorority e-mail writer and a news anchorman from North Dakota learned swearing just once could have you losing for life. Bring out the swear jar, parents. 

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
After a Delta Gamma sorority girl and a news anchorman resigned from their jobs due to their mouths getting them in trouble, tell your kids it pays to mind their language. Here, a Greek system recruitment sign are posted on the University of North Carolina's Charlotte campus, Sept. 5.

A profanity-laced e-mail by a sorority sister gets her reputation from Alpha to persona-non-Gamma right after a news anchorman for a North Dakota television station was fired for opening his first-ever broadcast with obscenities. It’s time to find a cure for sailor’s mouth before our kids become the next to lose face and future over a slip of the lip that sinks their professional ship.

A Delta Gamma sister at the University of Maryland is “resigning” from her sorority after her F-bomb rant in e-mail sparked a viral, media-frenzy. Last week the headlines were all about A.J. Clemente, new weekend news anchorman for Bismarck, N.D., television station KFYR when, as his co-anchor was making the introduction on air he failed to realize his microphone was live as he dropped some choice obscenities.

Sadly, I can imagine the shock and awe their parents felt upon seeing their kids on the news for foul-mouthed fails. I wonder if the parents swore roundly when they first heard about the incidents?

I can say with all honesty that if I were in their positions I would have struggled mightily not to let fly with a few expletives.

I don’t drink, smoke, do any sort of drug and have even given up coffee and Red Bull, but swearing is still, despite all efforts, my Achillies heel. I blame it on my former New York Times, New Jersey section editor who used the F-bomb as every part of speech and punctuation as well.

When I first began working for the Times as a stringer, about 15 years ago, I didn’t need to delete expletives from my speech, let alone e-mails because I just plain didn’t use them. However, after several years of multiple daily phone calls with my section editor, I became so desensitized to the word that I began to use it with regularity.

That came to an abrupt halt when I was out on assignment one day and my mother came to our house to babysit the boys while I was out doing an interview. When I returned home mom told me, “A man called claiming to be from The New York Times. He expects you to call him back. I told him I’d see about that.”

That is all she told me at that time. The following story comes from the aforementioned contrite and swear-free editor who answered my return call. The story requires a moment of background.

This editor habitually called with a greeting that was never, “hello,” but a rapid-fire, no breaths or prisoners bark full of F-bomb adjectives.

Mom and I have almost identical “phone voices” and her hello triggered the floodgates of salty greeting when the editor rang me up that morning.

The editor moaned: "I swore at your mother! How upset is she? What did she say?”

Even now I remember the icy trickle down my spine as he unfolded the story in technicolorful language and detail. We had a “curse jar” in our house, and allowance would be eaten alive by it if you uttered a profanity. Today, in our house, cursing gets you more chores, and if you swear while doing them, the chores multiply like rabbits.

Back to the editor’s call where, apparently, Mom listened and listened and then took a few breaths before saying to him, in what I can imagine was the tone of a disdainful snow queen, “I am terribly sorry, SIR, but my daughter is not in at the moment. If you will give me your name I will give her some of your message.”

When I got off the phone there was my mother, sitting at my dining room table with a cup of coffee and The New York Times. She was crisply turning the pages. Nobody can turn a page and make it sound like a whipcrack of ire like my mom. I now do the same thing and it is the universal “Lookout! Mom’s peeved,” signal in our house to hear a page turned in anger.

“That man’s a bad influence on you. Now I see where all your swearing is coming from,” she said. I was a grown woman with three children at the time and at that moment I was looking at the toes of my pumps in total childhood disgrace.

It put up a firewall between my brain and my mouth from that day on because the fact was that I hadn’t even realized I’d sworn in her presence during her visits. That meant I was swearing in earshot of the boys. Double epic fail! However, once you have broken that barrier to bad language, it’s a struggle to keep the new wall in place. Hence, I am even more tough on the boys during those times when the chore load fails to keep them in check.

This week must be a bad week for good words because the chore load wasn’t doing the job with my 17-year-old. I made him read the recent stories about the sorority girl and news anchor and offered him the alternative of using his natural humor as countermeasures to swearing.

His naturally rebellious almost-18 attitude inspired him to mock the idea with “OK, so I drop a hammer on my foot and yell ‘Oh Frootloops?’ Seriously?”

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