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What Kind of Bomb Doesn’t Kill?
And now we turn our attention to David Binner of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, who caused a stir when he let City Hall know what he thought about a $5 parking fine.
Paying his Debt To Society, Binner did some venting on the memo line of his check, where he wrote what Hoosier humorist Jean Shepherd, in his classic movie "A Christmas Story," called "the word, the big one, the Queen Mother of dirty words."
Yes, boys and girls, ol' Dave dropped the F-bomb.
Now, this did not go well in Doylestown, a burg of about 8,500 people situated 35 miles north of Philadelphia and known for being the home of James A. Michener, Oscar Hammerstein II, Pearl S. Buck and Margaret Mead. (It's also the home to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the famed Mercer Museum, and Ralph Stover State Park. And people say you never learn anything reading my column.)
Binner was charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped after he wrote an apology. And, presumably, had his mouth washed out with soap and went to bed without supper.
OK, so here's the part of the story that caught my eye. Binner's lawyer Keith Williams opined that they would have won in court anyway, because "the F-word isn't what it used to be," he said.
I grew up in a time when the use of such language, this and all the other words used by the Big Boys when they were out of earshot of the principal, was considered the vocabulary of the ignorant. This was preached by my father -- who, it should be noted, used cusswords a great deal of the time, in spite of a superior non-cussword vocabulary. It was one of those "Do what I say, but not as I (blankety-blank) say it" deals.
My brother P.D. demonstrated this when he was five, and entertained us all at dinner with a joke featuring the word Dave Binner wrote on his check. I remember my brother sitting there expecting guffaws and not the clang of the parents' tableware falling onto their plates. I remember the rest of us trying to control our laugher - not at the joke, but at P.D.'s predicament. Did you know that if you try to stifle a big laugh at the dinner table you can actually shoot mashed potatoes out of your nose?
P.D., under fierce parental cross-examination. revealed he had no idea what the word meant, and so was paroled with instructions never to use the word again, an admonition he has tended to ignore in his adult years, to the point of becoming boring about it.
Maybe that's what the lawyer meant: The word has been used so much it no longer has any shock power. I disagree.
His lawyer can downplay it all he likes, but the fact is, Dave raised hackles because the word is what it used to be. He could have communicated his displeasure with a number of less offensive words, but Dave wanted to shock, so it was the F-word, the big one, the Queen Mother, that he chose to write on the memo line.
And that, my friends, raises the other burning question raised this week by the news of the offensive check from Doylestown:
Who writes on the (blankety-blank) memo line?
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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