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CNN Today

Cuss Control Academy Attempts to Reduce Swearing

Aired January 25, 2001 - 2:42 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have James O'Connor with us; he's the founder of Cuss Control Academy based in Northbrook, Illinois. He joins us from our Chicago bureau. Apparently, for guys like me who grew up having their mouth washed out with soap...

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: That's how he does it.

WATERS: Yes; I actually did have my mouth washed out with soap.

That apparently didn't work in our culture?

ALLEN: Are you hearing us?

WATERS: Hello?

JAMES O'CONNOR, CUSS CONTROL ACADEMY: I'm hearing you, yes.

ALLEN: OK, sorry about that.

O'CONNOR: Are you asking me if that works or not? No, it doesn't work.

ALLEN: Well, how did -- like yesterday, you were supposed to be here yesterday and we had to bump you because something happened in Washington. How did you not curse over that? What made you start this and realize that our country has a problem here?

O'CONNOR: Well, actually, I didn't curse at that because that's just the way things go. Sometimes other news comes on and that happens. And that's a lot of what not swearing is all about: it's learning to accept the fact that things go wrong, accidents happen, people make mistakes, schedules get changed, so you have to learn to just cope and not cuss.

ALLEN: That's a high calling, isn't it, for a lot of people in this stressed-out world?

O'CONNOR: Yes, it is, but you can't do it all the time. My whole issue, actually, is not just outbursts of swearing; it's when you do it --when and where you choose to swear. If you're doing it in a public place, it can be a real sign of incivility. If you're doing it with, even, your spouse and your spouse is offended by it, you're risking your relationship.

So, it's really kind of a question of the time and the place.

WATERS: So, is it the words you object to, or is it the power or attitude behind the words?

O'CONNOR: It's often the tone and the attitude behind the words, not the words themselves. If you think about it, an awful lot of the swearing we do is complaining or criticizing or just showing a bad attitude, and that doesn't really do you much good, and it doesn't make anyone real happy to be with you.

ALLEN: You've also said it discloses a lack of character, it's immature, it reflects ignorance, it shows you don't have control. There's a lot behind swearing; and are you finding, as you talk about this and work with people, that our country has a real problem with this? And what about teenagers and kids?

O'CONNOR: Well, the teenagers -- the kids -- they're pretty much growing up in a cursing culture, and I guess that's an oxymoron. But they hear it everywhere: you know, they hear it in the movies, on some TV; they hear it from their parents in many cases. So they really don't understand that there's anything wrong with it. And it's really detrimental to their attitude and also just to the English language; we're losing a lot of the good words that we used to use more frequently.

WATERS: Because of what you just mentioned, aren't you, in effect, whistling in the wind because -- you'll recall in the '50s the word "pregnant" couldn't be said on television; and now look what we got today. Have you watched "NYPD Blue" lately?

O'CONNOR: Right, yes. Well, we've gone from one extreme to another. It was very repressive in the '50s, and even before that. And so we decided we should have a little bit more freedom of speech and I think we've just taken it to an extreme. We've become a very casual, relaxed society, which basically is a good thing, but we're a little bit too casual and too relaxed and not very discrete and sensitive about when we choose to use our bad language and do certain other things that are a little bit uncivil.

ALLEN: The good news in this is -- I was reading that you get really good reception when you go talk with people and even got a standing ovation from high schoolers; now there's a rare thing. Tell us about...

O'CONNOR: Well, not every high school, but some high schools were a little bit more responsive than others. But I do make the point that I'm not trying to eliminate swearing. The name of my book is "Cuss Control," not "Cuss Elimination." It is a way that we express ourselves and communicate; so I just try to get them to be a little bit more cautious.

WATERS: All right, well, good luck. It's a gosh darn good project you got going there. James O'Connor, founder of the Cuss Control Academy from Chicago.

O'CONNOR: Thank you, Lou. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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