Safire Sucks ("Hello, Sucker" column)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Mar 4 03:35:20 UTC 2007

William Safire's Sunday New York Times "On Language" column this  week is 
titled "Hello, Sucker." Although I did research on "Hello, sucker"  and "Sucker" 
(citizen of Illinois) and "Sucker born every minute" and more, he  didn't 
contact me. I guess the rule here is to contact every ADS member BUT me,  the guy 
he screwed on "the Big Apple" business for a mere decade.
Grant Barrett and ADS-L are mentioned:
I ran this hidden concern past Grant Barrett, editor of Oxford’s excellent  
political etymology, “Hatchet Jobs and Hardball,” a host of the KPBS  
public-radio show “A Way With Words” and whose “Double-Tongued Dictionary” is  
available at _www.doubletongued.org_ ( . “While it is 
debated regularly,” he  e-mails, “some linguists and lexicographers do think 
that sucks, as it is  currently used, such as ‘Algebra sucks,’ without a 
direct object, is probably  not derived from longer forms.” Obviously, other 
language scholars disagree and  are free to send their always profound comments to 
one another on the American  Dialect Society listserv because I must use my 
remaining space to deal with this  question: Is there anything unduly 
suggestive or remotely lascivious about  Bush’s “I’m about to crank this sucker up?”
This passage makes no sense:
That sense of gullibility was exemplified in several famous American sayings, 
 like “Never give a sucker an even break,”  falsely ascribed in the 1880s to 
the showman Phineas T. Barnum by a rival  impresario. The Barnum biographer 
A. H. Saxton credits Paper Collar Joe  Bessimer, a notorious confidence man, 
with  “There’s a sucker born every minute, but none of them ever  die.” (...) 
In the 1936 film “Poppy,” W. C. Fields first said, “Never give a  sucker an 
even break,” which reinforced the  sense of a sucker being a born “loser.” 
"Never give a sucker and even break" was falsely ascribed in the 1880s to the 
 showman Phineas T. Barnum, but was _first said_ by W. C. Fields in the 1936 
film  "Poppy"? Safire could have checked the Yale Book of Quotations, where 
Fields is  credited from the 1923 stage musical "Poppy." Doesn't anyone 
proofread at The  New York Times? 
Again, don't think of writing to Safire, or sending a letter to the editor,  
or asking for a correction, or writing to the Public Editor.  
Why or why doesn't Safire retire? Is he in ill health? This stuff has  been 
bad for a decade and a half now, but a lifeless column like this is just a  
waste of newsprint.
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