Vietnam Graffiti Project (X sucks, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Oct 21 08:41:54 UTC 2005

On Fri, 21 Oct 2005 09:04:20 +0100, Jonathon Green wrote:

[I wrote:]
>>  I believe that this is the first time such
>> usage has been found from the '60s (unless Ron Butters has discovered
>> examples since his 2001 _Dictionaries_ article).
>In James Blake's 1971 prison memoir 'The Joint', the bulk of which is
>composed of dated letters from 1950s-60s, one finds the following:
>1963 James Blake letter 21 Feb. in _The Joint_ (1972) 205: I wrote on
>the wall, ‘Franz Kafka sucks.’

That's a great find, antedating by one year the intransitive example from
the journal of Herbert Huncke ("Consuela sucks"). But I was referring
specifically to transitive examples of the type "Army sucks big dick" --
fellatory "suck" with nonhuman subject (= 'is worthless, objectionable').

Quoting Ron's 2001 paper on "the putative vulgarity of _X sucks_":

Moreover, though _suck cock_ is certainly plentiful in the printed record
in the 1960s and 1970s, when people started saying _(This) X Sucks!_ in
the 1960s, they did not go through a period in which a full utterance
_*(This) X Sucks cock!_ was in evidence, unlike _(This) X Sucks eggs!_ (or
_wind_ or _rope_).

The Vietnam Graffiti Project evidence would seem to contradict this point.

--Ben Zimmer

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