Some years ago, my brother and I were playing Boggle with a friend. Boggle, for those who don’t know (and I don’t know if you deserve to be told if you don’t know, but I am in a munificent mood) is a word game consisting of a small plastic board, 16 letter cubes, and a transparent plastic hood that enables players to shake up the cubes and rearrange them on the board.
The object is to find as many words as possible in 3 minutes by linking the letters on the cubes. Three- and four-letter words win a single point, for five letters you get 2, six get 3, seven 5, and eight or more yield the Holy Grail of Boggle: 11 points. It’s quite difficult, especially as you are rewarded for uniqueness: during the tally, any common words that you and other players have found are disqualified.
Most of our games that evening (and, to be fair, any game played by us on any evening) consisted of trash-talking. During the round in question, after the gameboard made the Pavlovian “clack-a shick-a shick-a” sound, pencils set furiously to paper. To our alarm, at minute 1:30, my brother threw down his pencil, crossed his arms with a triumphant smile, and watched us as we continued to search for words.
The reason for this display? He had found an 8-letter word: QUAGMIRE. And it was worth 11 points. A terrible blow. He knows how to stop when he’s ahead, and so shut down the tournament, claiming victory.
We knew what ensued would be bad, but we had no way of knowing how bad. Declaring himself the “King of Boggle”, he asked our mother to fashion a crown—yes, a crown—out of wrapping paper. For reasons still unclear, our mother complied with this request from her grown son, making him a Burger-King-style wrap-around crown.
To the crown he affixed “pieces of charm”, if you will—Post-it notes with the words: “King of Boggle. QUAGMIRE. 11 Points”; “RISK: Flattened opponents” and “BACKGAMMON: Marsed Dad”. This of course further endeared him to all members of the household. Uh, the royal household, I should say: starting at his coronation, he would enter the room with a “royal” wave of the hand towards his humble subjects. How happy we were when he said it wasn’t necessary for us to genuflect when he got up for a snack—we only needed to do that when he arrived in the room.
The Boggle win was, in short, unbearably annoying. For not only is the brother an expert trash-talker—especially when it comes to lucky wins—but he is also tenacious. We knew we would not soon hear the end of this.
Fast forward to the next summer. Another friend (with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, I should add) had come to visit, and while the others prepared the barbecue, I was hunting for something in the cupboard. I came across the evil crown and showed it to my friend, telling him about my brother’s ascension to the Boggle throne, precipitated by his win with QUAGMIRE for 11 points. My friend, apparently unimpressed, said, “Oh, like the Beastie Boys.”
“What? No, this was when we were playing Boggle,” I said, concerned that he was not listening.
“Right, so, like the Beasties,” he said. I still had no idea what he was talking about.
“No, no, I am talking about a word game. Perhaps I should start at the beginning again?” He told me to wait and went out to his car.
Whereupon he retrieved his computer. He played a song for me by the Beastie Boys which simultaneously made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, drained the color from my face, and made me feel dizzy. It had the following lyric:
I’m the King of Boggle
There is none higher
Got eleven points with the word quagmire
The name of the song is “Putting Shame in Your Game”. Check it out for yourself.