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LA County to watch its mouth

Sunday, March 1, 2009 | 4:38 p.m. CST

LOS ANGELES — Pay no attention to that eerie silence in the nation's most populous county this week; it will simply be the sound of 10 million people not cussing.

At least that's the result McKay Hatch is hoping for once his campaign to clear the air is recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

On Tuesday, the board is scheduled to issue a proclamation by Supervisor Michael Antonovich making the first week in March No Cussing Week.

Not that 15-year-old Hatch expects complete compliance. When his No Cussing Club meets at South Pasadena High School on Wednesdays it's not unusual for a nonmember to throw open the door and fire off a torrent of four-letter words. He's also been the target of organized harassment by pro-cussers.

And Antonovich's county motion carries no penalties.

"But it's a good reminder for all of us, not just young people but everybody, to be respectful to one another and watch the words we use," said the supervisor's spokesman, Tony Bell.

The county isn't the first entity to try to put the lid on swearing. Hatch's hometown of South Pasadena declared itself a cuss-free zone for a week last March, and two years ago a high school in Canada threatened to suspend repeat cussers.

Hatch has lofty goals.

"Next year I want to try to get California to have a cuss-free week. And then, who knows, maybe worldwide," said the 10th grade student, who believes if people treat each other with more civility they can better work together to solve bigger problems.

He said his campaign began to form about the time he hit seventh grade, when he noticed his friends beginning to swear, something his family didn't allow.

He formed the No Cussing Club and invited others to join. Soon the group had a Web site, bright orange T-shirts, a hip hop theme song and inquiries from all over from people interested in joining. He estimates 20,000 people have formed similar clubs.

"It's not about forcing anyone to stop, just to bring awareness," he says of the movement. "If you can do a week without cussing, maybe you can do two weeks. And then maybe a month."


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