Lessons for life
December 13, 2011
Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? Maybe the Periodic Table of Swearing can help. The table was created by writers, cartoonists and animators Jon Link and Mick Bunnage (both of whom reside in Essex, England). The colorful table is intended to push the envelope, but most importantly, amuse during what many consider to be a stressful time of year — the holidays.
(As you might expect, Link and Bunnage like to swear when they talk. But since we're a family-friendly operation, I've replaced the inappropriate language when needed — watch for the italicized words.)
Q: What motivated you to create the table?
Link: Swearing is the international language, and I think English swearing is probably the best in the world. It's the one thing we're still really good at. We thought it was about time someone set about creating a systematic chart of swear words based on the chemical elements reflecting the relative potency of each word. Then we thought, "Wowee!" Why not make a proper four-legged talking table out of it.
Bunnage: We're very pleased with the result. It's a technological breakthrough and an educational leap forward. We're hoping one day to see it on display in the Science Museum.
Q: How did you decide to arrange them? Does one section offend more than the other?
Link: We arranged the swearing in order of weight. So the worst of them are in the "heavy metals" end of the chart on the left — for the pretty potent nuggets to be used sparingly like chili sauce or raisins.
Bunnage: Up the other end of the scale are those that barely raise an eyebrow in the "light gases" section on the right, so you can whack that one about whenever you fancy without anyone giving a hoot. The strip along the bottom relates to swearing under the influence of alcohol.
Q: What are your favorites?
Link: The ones where we go a bit freestyle are the most challenging. (Imagine a string of offensive phrases at this point in the conversation.)
Bunnage: This is pushing the boundaries of creative abuse and encouraging people to branch out a bit. It's a small contribution to civilization but we think it's worth it.
Q: Why do you think we put so much weight on words?
Link: Swear words are the gristle in the burger. They make things more dramatic. Somehow lobbing in the odd bit of selective swearing enhances the experience of talking to each other. It adds a bit of light and shade to a funeral speech, for instance.
Q: Who do you think would be the best recipients of your periodic table as a gift this holiday season?
Bunnage: Anyone that needs to let off a bit of steam. There's an Android phone app now. Apple turned it down. You can get the limited edition print version of our table online too … . The price converts to about $160.
Q: What has been the reaction so far?
Bunnage: Strong. We've had a lot of interest from all over the world, which is very encouraging. Maybe it's just a pipe dream but as the world becomes a smaller place, it's nice to think that one day in the future we could all get together and tell each other to blast off.
Find the Periodic Table of Swearing by searching the web for "Modern Toss." Warning: The site may not be safe for work.
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