that sucks

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 28 15:24:20 UTC 2008

Wilson's explanation is pretty much what I had in mind, too, except that I would add the upper-case words:

"That is, gravity can be conceived of literally as a form of sucking, but 'sucking' brings to mind performing fellatio AND THUMB-SUCKING AND SUCKING UP AND SUCKER PUNCHES, ETC."

There must be interesting psychocultural reasons why so many people (especially putatively hetero males?) fixate exclusively on fellatio in this context, but do not (?) think of blowjobs in "Never give a sucker an even break," or puzzle over the potential contradiction of "I am a sucker for a gal with a pretty set of hooters."

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-----Original Message-----
From: Dennis Preston <preston at MSU.EDU>

Date:         Fri, 28 Mar 2008 06:52:10
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] that sucks

That's what I was trying to say, and I suspect the timing is very
similar, maybe early 60's for me.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: that sucks
>"THERE IS NO GRAVITY--THE UNIVERSE SUCKS" is the way that I first saw
>it, as a graffito in pencil on the outside wall of the mess hall at
>Fort Devens, MA, in November of 1959. I took it as a pun based on
>"suck" = perform fellatio. That is, gravity can be conceived of
>literally as a form of sucking, but "sucking" brings to mind
>"performing fellatio" and gravity *can't* be conceived of literally as
>a form of sucking in *that* sense and, if you *try* to conceive of it
>that way, you have to laugh.
>You know, the *only* other place that I've ever come across this is in
>any form is here in ADS-L discussions.
>On Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 8:07 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>   Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>   Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>   Subject:      Re: that sucks
>>   At 7:55 PM -0400 3/27/08, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>>   >I'm not sure what it is that Dennis is remembering here from his
>>   >"X sucks" = 'X stinks' was not in use in the 50s, and not widely
>>used until
>>   >the late 60s and early 70s. Sounds like post facto codger
>>   >etymoloogizing to me!
>>   >
>>   >If my memory is correct, people did sometimes say things like, "Does she
>>   >suck?" meaning "Will she fellate one?"--but it was used only for people.
>>   >
>>   >I am about the same age as Dennis, and like him I remember being
>>confused in
>>   >the late 1960s at something someone had written on a bathroom wall: "The
>>   >Universe sucks."
>>   Wasn't the full quote
>>   or "THE EARTH SUCKS", depending on your theory?
>>   LH
>>   >But not merely because I could not imagine the universe fellating
>>   >someone--this use of 'sucks' simply did not compute with ANY of
>>my known uses
>>   >of "suck" ("suck up to," "suck the gravied finger," "suck eggs,"
>>   >that they all were pejorative. There was no reason for me to focus on oral
>>   >sex (and I think I have as dirty a mind as Dennis!).
>>   >
>>   >
>>   >In a message dated 3/27/08 6:39:47 PM, preston at MSU.EDU writes:
>>   >
>>   >
>>   >>  Us 50's kids (well, teenagers) knew exactly what sexual act was
>>   >>  referred to; the first time we saw "The earth sucks," we didn't know
>>   >>  quite what to make of it.
>>   >>
>>   >>  dInIs
>>   >>
>>   >
>>   >
>>   >
>>   >
>>   >**************
>>   >Create a Home Theater Like the Pros. Watch the video on AOL
>>   >Home.
>>   >
>>   >ncid=aolhom00030000000001)
>>   >
>>   >------------------------------------------------------------
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>>   ------------------------------------------------------------
>>   The American Dialect Society -
>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
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Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

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