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Preserving the integrity of English

Thank you, Rushworth Kidder, for bringing the delicate subject of profanity to the attention of the public [``Public profanity: snuffing out verbal pollution,'' Jan. 13]. The fact that many entertainers -- from comedians to actors to rock stars -- seem to succeed because of their ability to say things we normally label objectionable is disturbing.

I have walked out of several movies long before the credits appeared on the screen. The individual decision not to be entertained by those who try to see how far they can push the public -- whether on the screen, printed page, or in conversation -- will leave profanity high and dry. When it ceases to impress us it will lose its purpose. Debra J. Corry Plantation, Fla.

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I am in agreement with Kidder, but wish he had mentioned a category of words I find so much more offensive than those dealing with bodily functions. I am referring to those words used to denigrate various racial, religious, and ethnic groups. Isn't this the worst kind of swearing: cursing a people by attributing to them as a group a negative characteristic, or by treating them as lesser human beings? Anita van Tilburg Woodstock, Ill.

The polluters of our beautiful English language -- reviewers who praise and promote the vulgar, and publishing offices run by trade divisions -- have for too long been the trend-setters. Too much concern with ``the masses,'' reflected in TV viewer polls and best-seller book lists, exert their influence on the public mind. Fear as well as greed is responsible.

The democratic process leveling down instead of up. The schoolboy afraid of his peers. The teacher afraid of unpopularity with students. The actor afraid to refuse to mouth foul language. These all influence our society.

Perhaps a few courageous writers, editors, producers, and critics -- by promoting the healthy and the decent -- can turn the tide and start a trend upward in taste and communication. Pearl Strachan Hurd Rockport, Mass.

We can't really discuss the problem of profanity, apart from child training. If parents use taboo words, children will do likewise.

Parents need to uphold and preserve, for themselves as well as children, the innocence and goodness of childhood. Teachers can help, and so can the media. Jim Hastings Boston

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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