'No Cussing' Founder: Mind Your Dang Language

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McKay Hatch is a skinny 15-year-old with braces on his teeth. The middle of seven children, he plays soccer, rides a unicycle and says he likes Disney movies, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees. But there's one thing he doesn't like: cussing.

"It just makes me feel really offended and stuff," he says from his home in South Pasadena, Calif. "It just doesn't make me feel good."

You have to know that McKay's parents are authors of a book titled Raising a G-Rated Family in an X-rated World. Profanity was frowned on at home. Hatch says none of his friends in elementary school ever swore, but it seemed like when they got to middle school, "everyone started cussing," he says. "The reason it bothered me the most is 'cause it was something they were using every other word, kinda like the word 'the.' They kept using it and using it."

When he started high school last year, Hatch ratcheted up his courage and asked his friends to stop cussing around him. He thought he'd be shunned, but surprisingly, they agreed. Then he started up a no-cussing club at South Pasadena High School. Ana Victoria Pumphrey, a 16-year-old member, says the goal is to discourage students from swearing.

"It's vulgar, and it provokes violence, and people who cuss hurt other people by saying it," she says, wearing the club's bright orange T-shirt. "It's a form of verbal abuse."

In his quest, Hatch has issued a no-cussing challenge through his Web site, an upcoming book he has written, and a music video he posted on YouTube. He raps:

Every other word was burning up my ears
So I took a new stand, and I challenged all my peers
If you want to hang with us, I don't want to hear you cuss.
If you want to hang with us, I don't want to hear you cuss.
Don't cuss. Don't cuss.

Hatch says he knows it's not easy to do, and he doesn't call it the "perfect club." If someone slips up in school, he says, "they're like 'aw, dang it,' but it's just doing better."

Apparently "dang" is OK.

"You know, when you first try to stop cussing, you can't stop right away," he explains. "You got to have transition words or substitutes to help you stop. You can use 'oh, pickles,' 'sassafras,' 'dang,' 'darn,' 'flip' — just anything you can think of."

Hatch has gotten a lot of attention. One of his recent appearances was with The Tonight Show, where he told host Jay Leno his club now has 30,000 members worldwide.

Those members, as well as Hatch's parents and teachers, may be proud. But the squeaky-clean message has also sparked plenty of hate. Hatch says some people go out of their way to curse him at school, on the Web and on the phone. Not long ago, someone ordered $2,000 worth of pizza delivered to Hatch's house.

And Hatch has been the target of more than just pranks. Several phoned death threats have prompted local police and the FBI to get involved.

"It's really scary, 'cause people are calling us all night," he says. "Sometimes we have to unplug the phone. You know, at first it was really kinda scary, but they're just bullies and they want you to be scared. And so I'm not gonna let them win."

So Hatch plans to continue expanding his club, writing books and speaking publicly. He swears — though not in a bad way — that he's not trying to take away anyone's freedom of speech, just challenging them to come up with cleaner language.

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