Talia Weisberg, a freshman at Manhattan High School for Girls in New York, is the founder of Bleep!, and its devoted to curbing cursing among kids and teenagers. Sisterhood contributor Rebecca Honig Friedman recently interviewed Weisberg by email to find out what the bleep Bleep! is all about.
Rebecca Honig Friedman: What is Bleep! and how did you get the idea to start it?
Talia Weisberg: Bleep! is the organization I made to stop kids and teens from cursing. I had always hated how my friends would liberally sprinkle bad words into their speech, and when I wanted to get involved in a cause over the summer, I thought of Bleep!. I really wanted to get involved in something that I as a kid with limited resources could personally do, and creating an organization like Bleep! seemed like my best option.
You’re a NY Spelling Bee champion and have written several as-yet-unpublished novellas. Clearly, words matter a lot to you. Why banish a whole set of them from your vocabulary?
Words do matter a lot to me (as you mentioned, I wrote five books, am in the middle of a sixth, and have published in several media). Because I love words so, I want to preserve their significance. People will judge others, and will often think more or less of a person based on his or her speech. Certain words have evolved into taboo words in today’s society, and people will judge someone negatively if he or she uses bad words. I don’t see a need to use what society has deemed bad words; there are lots of alternatives that are socially acceptable.
And speaking of vocabulary, what is your preferred term for “using bad words”: cursing, swearing, cussing …?
I tend to use “cursing.” “Cussing” and “swearing” sound too Midwestern/Southern for a jaded Noo Yawka like me.
You’re currently finishing up your freshman year at the Orthodox yeshiva day school Manhattan High School for Girls. What do your classmates think of Bleep!?
My classmates, teachers, etc. all think Bleep! is excellent. Most of my friends are members. Even though few to none of them curse, they understand the importance of keeping your mouth clean.
Do you think of Bleep’s mission as a Jewish one?
I try to keep Bleep! secular, but as I’m in the Orthodox community, it often overlaps into the Jewish arena. A lot of the Bleep! concepts also apply to principles of shmirat halashon [guarding one’s speech].
How do you like going to an all-girls school?
I like going to an all-girls school. I went to a coed elementary, and I must say the language is much cleaner at an all-girls [school].
Has your relatively young age been an issue — either as a hindrance or a help — in developing Bleep!?
My age tends to help, since it shows other kids that’s it’s not some adult who’s preaching to them about keeping their mouths clean — it’s another kid, just like them, who thinks it. I think it gets people, adults included, to listen more.
What do you want to be when you ‘grow up’ and why?
Harvard has a JD/PhD program that I would love to get into, since I would like to get a PhD in Women’s Studies and go into labor law and specialize in workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. (I’ve been thinking about this for a while.) As I describe myself as a feminist, I would really like to help out sisters in need, and making some money while I’m at it never hurt.