Ocean City's No Profanity sign.

Episode 149: Breaking my mind

Ocean City's No Profanity sign.

They’d have better luck with a ‘No Profundity’ sign

Before we get started, it is very important you know that “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band is one of the worst of the Hippie-Pop songs ever recorded. This is not my opinion, this is objective fact. What makes it one of the awfullest, most soul crushing songs ever to mar the airwaves is for another day. But for now we’ll just say beyond the obvious, trite, pandering of Hippie-Pop, beyond rhyming “In” with “Sinner” and adding two iambs to do it, “Signs” is the most corporate of anti-establishment rock. Point is, I draw no inspiration from the song, but because of its ubiquity I can use it as a cultural reference point for a cleverly titled Todcast and blog.


In this week’s Todcast we discuss, among other things, the Ocean City council’s decision to put up signs on every street corner asking people not to curse. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I like to curse or, rather, I like the English language and using as many of the words as it provides pleases me. Unless it is completely unavoidable, I don’t curse in my parents’ presence. I hold my tongue not because I know it makes them uncomfortable (although it does), but because as part of my training many swear words were banned, as was “ain’t” and the refusal to match subject and verb tenses. I don’t do these either in their presence or away from it. I regard “ain’t” like “hell” as a peppery word that can be used for emphasis and to great effect.

And this always has been my shorthand on offensive language. I am more offended by atrocious grammar and behavior than a bus full of nuns would be hearing me swear. If Ocean City wants to ban offensive things, if it really believes encouraging politeness is going to improve its image among travelers, “Do Not Curse” signs are really the last place to start.

The one question the city could have asked, but neglected to before ordering hundreds of “Be Polite” signs was one of efficacy. Who would curse loudly and bawdily enough to offend all the people in there general area and also be prevented from cursing by a sign asking them not to. I think we’re looking at a very small demographic here.

If Ocean City wants to project a more family friendly image thorough signage, maybe they could ask their boardwalk patrons to throw on a shirt after dark. Maybe, just past Thrashers for 100 yards there should be a sign that says, “Try eating just one french fry at a time, other people can see you, you know.” Finally, and possibly more important, they should erect signs to put in front of every tee shirt shop that says, “The Town of Ocean City finds these shirts as offensive as you do, but we also respect businesses free speech. Furthermore, we would love it if we didn’t attract the kind of element that would purchase ‘I just screwed your girlfriend’ shirts by the thousands, but with all the cursing that’s going on on the street corners, we just can’t seem to get traction with a higher class of high school daytripper.”

OK that last one might have been prohibitively long, but you get my drift.

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