Little else in the way of public rudeness is more annoying for a parent of young children than people who drop the F-bomb casually at the table next to you in a restaurant or some other public place. That’s true whether kids are present or not, for that matter.

So kudos go to Middleborough, Mass., a city of 20,000 that is taking a stand. At a meeting Monday night, residents voted 183-50 to approve a $20 fine for swearing in public. Public profanity has been a crime in the city since 1968 but never was enforced. Police now have the authority to write a citation at officers’ discretion.

Who knows how this will go. But it makes the point: We have to have some boundaries for societal behavior, and communal laws are one way — maybe the only way in this case — we establish those boundaries.

American societal norms have deteriorated over the generations, from how we dress to how we speak.

From a time when no gentleman went out of the house without a coat and tie or a lady in a dress, now it is acceptable to go out in public in pajama pants, a grubby T-shirt and flip-flops — not to mention not having bathed and bearing a collage of tattoos and body piercings.

Likewise, “cussing like a sailor” now seems to be acceptable speech in public for everyone. What once earned a movie an “R” rating now seems to be everyday speech in public.

People who still care about how they look and act can look the other way, but it is hard not to hear people who swear loudly, often oblivious to their audience, which might include young children.

“I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a Middleborough store owner and former town selectwoman, said of the new ordinance. “I don’t care what you do in private. It’s in public what bothers me.”

We agree. Someone could challenge the constitutionality of this measure, but so be it.

Societal values seem to be on a terribly slippery slope, and we’ve got to try something to re-establish the lines of decency in this country.

— The Hutchinson News