Vietnam Graffiti Project (X sucks, etc.)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 29 05:06:49 UTC 2005

On 10/25/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Vietnam Graffiti Project (X sucks, etc.)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On alt.usage.english, Richard Maurer reports on two interesting tidbits
> involving the Vietnam-era popularization of "X sucks". First, there's some
> evidence that the slogan "Army sucks" was given a boost by an underground
> radio DJ in Vietnam who used the pseudonym "Dave Rabbit":
> -----
> "Music in Vietnam" (from "Through the Soldiers' Ears: What Americans
> Fighting in Vietnam Heard and Its Effects", senior thesis by Chris Sabis)
> Despite the short duration of most of these stations, some unauthorized
> disc jockey's gained much notoriety in Vietnam. One such individual called
> himself "Dave Rabbit." Dave Rabbit was a disc jockey for an unauthorized
> radio station in Saigon. On his show, Dave Rabbit would play acid rock,
> announce the opening of new brothels in the city, and use aphorisms like
> "Army sucks" and "Fuck it before it fucks you."
> [Citing: Cleveland, Les. _Dark Laughter: War in Song and Popular Culture_.
> Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1994.]

"Dark Laughter"

Weird coincidence! "Dark Laughter" was the name of a cartoon series
about culled[sic] folk in the old _Pittsburgh Courier_.

-Wilson Gray

> -----
> There are clips of Dave Rabbit's shows on <>, but
> the site appears to be down at the moment.
> Also, there's evidence that as early as 1969 the putative vulgarity of "X
> sucks" was already subject to debate along generational lines:
> -----
> "Hampton [New Hampshire]: A Century of Town and Beach, 1888-1988"
> by Peter Evans Randall
> In 1969, a Winnacunnet High School teacher named James C. Pechewlys, who
> taught a course called "Problems of Democracy," decided to protest the
> Vietnam war in his own way. He thereupon attached to the trunk of his car
> a sign that read "Vietnam Sucks," a sentiment easily visible on his car in
> the school parking lot. Someone also tried to set the car afire, an
> incident that also drew wide publicity to his sign.
> Regarding whether or not the words on the sign were obscene -- as some
> thought -- Pechewlys countered that obscenity was in the eyes of the
> beholder; the word sucks was in wide use among younger people to indicate
> something despised or despicable. Be that as it may, the sign set off an
> uproar that led to a vote by the Winnacunnet High School Board, on August
> 18, 1969, to dismiss Pechewlys from his teaching post.
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer

-Wilson Gray

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