Swear-Off

I just back from the Best Thing Ever, which was the competition for the greatest swear word of all time at SparkCon.

SparkCon is this giant open-source festival, and while I support it 100% in theory, I usually end up missing it. It’s on the heels of Hopscotch, which I truly love, and SparkCon is a lot less focused than that.  You know. ‘Cause it’s open-source. It’s the Wikipedia of festivals.  Everyone can contribute, so some of it’s fun, some of it’s silly, a lot of it is genius, a lot of it is ooo-look-at-me-flying-my-freak-flag, and so forth.  Fly that freak flag! Fly it high! I’m all for it! But I’ll be over here on my front porch enjoying not watching that. Today, though, there was lots of good stuff going on.  I went.

I walked down in time to get a $1 poem on a word of my choice.  I was not prepared with a word, but I was wearing my grandmother’s sparkly crescent brooch, so I said, “How about brooch?”  The poet asked how to spell it, and I said b-r-o-o-c-h, and she said, hmm, I don’t think so, I think it’s b-r-o-a-c-h, right? And I said nope, pretty sure it’s b-r-o-o-c-h, but I’m happy to look it up on my phone while you get started, and another poet behind her said, kindly but as if I were a little dim, no, I’m sure it’s b-r-o-c-h-e.  I did not tell them I AM A CHAMPION SPELLER, but I did tell them as humbly as possible that dictionary.com confirmed that it’s b-r-o-o-c-h.  Seriously. The last thing you want from your on-demand poets is to have a spelling battle.  But whatever.  I won.  The poem was nice.

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There was another booth with a knowledge drop, where you could write down something you knew how to do, and next to it was a place to write down a skill you wanted to learn.  There didn’t seem to be a way to exchange the two, although there was a list where it looked like you could sign up for a bunch of meetings about it.  Yikes.  Meetings.

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I kind of loved the place where you could drop off a secret.

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I also loved this map of Raleigh, where you could flag your memories and write down wishes for things you’d love to see.

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That was all just killing time until SwearSpark though.  By this time I’d collected Veronica and PJ, and we headed down to London Bridge Pub to examine the bracket of swear words.  There were 64.  Please. I beg you.  Sensitive souls.  Aunts and uncles. Former sixth grade Sunday school teachers. DO NOT CLICK ON THIS IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT.  There is blue language.

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Fine. You clicked on it.  Everyone clicked on it.  I don’t blame you. I’m not judging.  We had a serious in-depth discussion about the relative merits of each curse word as soon as we got there.  With strangers.

The words were divided into four categories:  sex, body parts, compound words, and miscellaneous. The first round, tragically, had been determined online before we got there.  We would have campaigned hard for “Asshat,” because it is a much funnier word than the one it beat.  It is also the mildest of the curse words on the list, I think, and the one I most wanted to call the guy in the Suburban who almost ran me over while talking on his cellphone turning onto Martin  Street this week. It’s a word worth fighting for.

The discussion got a little academic after that.  PJ, who is a volunteer at Planned Parenthood, noted that many of the words are just names for body parts and therefore should not be offensive. We had to look a couple of them up, and then I deleted the search history on my phone. I wondered aloud whether we were going for the filthiest word, or the most popular, or just the most cathartic when you say it out loud.  Nobody had a good answer for that.

Theeeeeen things got dirty.  We had to vote for each word by dropping Skittles into labeled cups while the emcee noted our progress.  JJ went to get a beer and when we turned around again, he had a microphone in his hand and was reading aloud the Urban Dictionary definitions of the hands-down filthiest and most offensive word on the list to a crowd of a hundred or so people.  One of their friends called out, “THAT’S HIS WIFE” and then PJ had to start signing autographs beside that particular curse word.  OMG.

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The bracket progressed, and we had a discussion about how I had heard years ago that every culture unconsciously chooses swear words based on what scares them the most.  At least in times past, in America, all the worst curse words were about sex; in France, they were about religion; in other places, they were about bodily functions, etc.  Today it’s probably a free-for-all.

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A lot of words got eliminated.  They were impressive words.  They just weren’t the best swear words.

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When it got down to the Filthy Four, there were actors to argue for the legitimacy of each word.  One guy did the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet using a particularly filthy word every couple of lines.  Another guy did “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with about a hundred F-bombs.  Another guy did then entire liberation speech from “Independence Day” and just dropped one solid curse word at the end.  The best, hands down, was the girl who did did JFK’s Inaugural Address, complete with Secret Service men in the background, except every time she said, “country,” she used a shorter, similar-sounding word.  Sort of changed the whole tone of the speech, that “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” part in particular.  She owned it.  Way to take back a kind of mean dirty word, sister.

It came down to two:  The F word, and a compound word to which I will not even allude because, although I have pirate blood somewhere in me, I am also a bad blusher. It was a new one for me. It was the most versatile, most readily-used, most dialed-in curse word, up against the one that was just the filthiest. It was a nail-biter.

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And it was really close, but the F word took the day in the end.  We probably all could have called that, going into it, but it really could have gone in a lot of different directions.  We all felt like the best man won. So to speak.

After that we had snacks at Garland, and stayed for a few minutes of stand-up comedy at Kings, and the rest of the crowd was hanging around for circus performances and aerial dancing and all kinds of other good stuff.  I went home, because, well, nothing was going to top the swearing competition.  I felt like I’d seen some things. I felt like I’d participated in some community building.

I felt like we’d had a solid SparkCon experience.

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