suck = 'to be bad' (1969)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Dec 10 06:55:44 UTC 2004

On Thu, 9 Dec 2004 21:51:55 -0500, Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM> wrote:

>On Thu, Dec 09, 2004 at 07:23:46PM -0500, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>> OED2 def. 15f of "suck" ('to be contemptible or disgusting') has a first
>> cite of June 1971 (from _It_ magazine: "Polaroid sucks!").  The archive
>> for _Creem_ magazine lists the following article in its first issue:
>We've discussed this term quite a bit in the past--Ron Butters
>wrote an article about it in _Dictionaries_ a few years ago.
>I think we've gotten it back to 1965 now, in Herbert Huncke's
>_Journals_. But all pre-1970 cites are welcome, esp. if they
>have any suggestion of sexual reference!

Ah, I had searched on the archive but hadn't seen any antedatings from the
'60s (besides people's memories of graffiti and the like).  I'll have to
hunt down Ron's article.  In the meantime, here are a few more examples
from the late '60s I've come across:

"Flower power sucks."
Line in "Absolutely Free" by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention on the
album _We're Only in It for the Money_ (recorded 1967, released Mar 1968)

"Hell Sucks"
Title of an article in _Esquire_ by Michael Herr, Aug 1968
(referring to one of the sayings that soldiers in Vietnam wrote on their
helmet covers and flak jackets)
Reprinted in _Dispatches_ (1991), pp. 70-85 (searchable on Amazon)

"Rolling Stone speak true when he say The Happy Nation sucks."
Germaine Greer, "A groupie's vision", _Oz_, Feb 1969
Reprinted in _The Madwoman's Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings_
(1986), p. 10

The magazine _Oz_ is probably a good place to look for more sexually
suggestive citations.  (Not to mention the magazine _Suck_, which Germaine
Greer and other writers for _Oz_ launched in 1970.)

-- Ben Zimmer

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