The state Assembly passed a resolution Thursday that would establish the first week of March as "Cuss Free Week" throughout the state. If approved by the Senate next week, the measure would take effect immediately.
The resolution includes no enforcement mechanism and is simply meant to promote greater harmony and connectedness, said Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Canada Flintridge and co-author of the measure.
"I've always wondered why we behave differently when grandma is watching than when we're on our own," said Portantino, who owned up to his share of four-letter words.
Portantino said the California Legislature - known for imposing strict clean air and clean water laws - is the first state legislative body in the nation to consider a statewide profanity-free week.
The resolution was inspired by a South Pasadena teenager, McKay Hatch, who started a No Cussing Club at his junior high school in 2007. Similar clubs have since cropped up in every state and 20 countries.
Hatch, who traveled to the Capitol with his family to support the resolution, said he sees a link between foul-mouthed incivility and other forms of problem behavior, such as drug use and bullying.
Next up for the 16-year-old? Promoting no-cussing measures in other states and internationally.
"Next year I want to do a world tour," he said. "Cussing is a hard habit to break, but anyone can do it."
California lawmakers will now test Hatch's theory. Portantino and his staff have supplied each of them with a "cuss jar." Those who let a foul word slip are encouraged to deposit money into the jar as penance.
"I expect several of you will have your jars overflowing in the next few weeks," Portantino's co-author, Cameron Smyth, told his fellow Assembly members.
After Thursday's vote, Smyth, a Republican from Santa Clarita, joined Portantino and Hatch in delivering a jar to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office.
The governor's office confirmed it had received the jar but declined to comment further.
Profanity has been rare on the floor of the Assembly or Senate. After one former lawmaker used the word "hell" in 2007, senators took time out from a busy day of voting to debate whether it was appropriate to use the word on the floor. Lawmakers eventually agreed to disagree.
Messages between the Legislature and the governor have been a different matter.
Last October, the first letter in each line of a veto message from Schwarzenegger to Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano spelled out a common four-letter vulgarity followed by the letters "y-o-u."
The Republican governor called the hidden message "one of those wild coincidences."