Vietnam Graffiti Project (X sucks, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Oct 21 19:16:46 UTC 2005

On Fri, 21 Oct 2005 14:51:19 -0400, Wilson Gray wrote:

>Shit! This sucks the green wienie! If only I'd had the foresight to
>photograph the "There is no gravity. The universe sucks!" that I found
>written on the exterior wall of the messhall at Fort Devens in
>November of 1960.

That *would* be something. Ron Butters recalls seeing "The universe sucks"
as a graffito in 1968, and a variant with "The earth sucks" shows up in
the 1970 movie _The Strawberry Statement_.

For those who remember the gravity joke, where does it fit exactly in the
history of "X sucks"? Did it play on a preexisting pejorative sense of
"suck(s)", and if so, did that sense have anything to do with fellatio? Or
could "X sucks" have been (at least partially) derived *from* the gravity
joke, with the sexual connotation developing later?

Here's the chronology we've established so far:

c1960: "The universe sucks" as Army graffito
c1963: Generalized "X sucks" as prison graffito
c1966: Generalized "X sucks" and "X sucks dick (etc.)" as Army graffito

--Ben Zimmer

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