Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Squeaky Clean

By Carl Kozlowski

FEBRUARY 15, 1999:  The 54-year-old career public relations man decided it was time to stop his own swearing long before last August, when he started offering Cuss Control Academy classes at his Northbrook firm. Got a big job interview coming up? Meeting the in-laws for the first time? Been told by your co-workers that your language is filthier than the Chicago River? For $45 and ninety minutes of your time, O'Connor claims he can help you wash your mouth out permanently - or at least help you tone it down a bit.

Big-time media types don't think he's just fucking with us, either. Since starting the Academy, O'Connor has appeared on more than eighty radio stations nationwide, guested with a couple of his successful students on a recent "Oprah" show and even helped the local general manager of the Christian television network PAX clean up his act.

"Oprah asked if she could say 'friggin,' and I said, 'You can but you're not fooling anyone,'" says O'Connor. "She laughed, but I say get in the habit of using a different word."

O'Connor has virtually made an obsession of finding alternate words and phrases for our potty mouths: "shoot," "nuts" and "blasted" are offered up as examples, along with the time-honored favorite "stinkin'." But before you think he's just another Ned Flanders, self-righteously meddling with the rest of our lives, realize that he's got a sense of humor about the whole topic - and he still knows how to drop a few swear words with aplomb when the moment calls for it.

"I've made a list of seventy different phrases where people use the word 'shit,' and I read them off to my students," he says. "I like to call it my 'Shit List': 'You're up shit creek,' 'shooting the shit,' 'this is a piece of shit.'"

So how does Jim O'Connor teach his students to cleanse their mouths? With a profane version of the old game show "Password Plus." He creates fill-in-the-blank sentences for those aforementioned phrases, and then asks for "clean" words that can complete the sentence. Example: "You're up _____creek" would earn Ken Starr-approval by merely inserting the word "the"; or how about "this is a piece of... garbage"?

And Melea Smith, counselor at Hinsdale South High School, is one client who practices what O'Connor preaches.

"I never swore at work, but I did swear at home around my teenage kids until I realized I was embarrassing them," says Smith. "But just last week when I was in the emergency room with my daughter's third asthma attack in two weeks, I said 'This system is full of... caca!' And my daughter said, 'Those classes really worked, Mom.'"

Hot damn!


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