[Ads-l] "X sucks" in the East Village Other

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 18 06:35:56 UTC 2020

For a while now, I've been interested in finding the earliest print
occurrences of "X sucks" = 'X is bad.' There are a couple of early examples
that have been found in a 1963 letter and a 1964 journal entry, but 1966
appears to be the year when the expression started showing up in print, at
least in alternative newspapers. Previously I found a poem with the line
"EVERYTHING SUCKS!!" printed in The Paper, a Michigan State publication, in
its Oct. 13, 1966 issue (and reprinted later that year in The Screw from
Univ. of Kansas):


Now thanks to the Independent Voices archive, it's possible to find
slightly earlier print examples in The East Village Other. The Oct. 1, 1966
issue of The EVO has two examples where they say the actor George Hamilton
"sucks." (I'm not sure why they had it in for George Hamilton in particular
-- perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was dating Lynda
Bird Johnson at the time. Or maybe they had a premonition he would play
Dracula in the 1979 movie "Love at First Bite.")

The East Village Other, Oct. 1-15, 1966, p. 4
George Hamilton (who sucks) says that "undesirable" stars should be weeded
out to prevent further deterioration of the American image at international
film festivals.
The East Village Other, Oct. 1-15, 1966, p. 21
George Hamilton sucks.

Here's another example from The EVO later in '66, in an interview with
fashion designer Diana Dew, conducted by Philip Proctor of Firesign Theatre

The East Village Other, Volume 1, Issue 24, Nov. 15-Dec. 1, 1966, p. 9
"Diana and her Electric Dress" by Philip Proctor
EVO: And what do you think of organized religion?
DD: It sucks.

There are many more examples of "X sucks" in The EVO starting in early '67.
The first issue of the year returned to the George Hamilton theme, followed
by the punny use of "Dracula Sucks" in a headline for an article in which
"the establishment" is depicted as a vampire:

The East Village Other, Jan. 1-15, 1967, p. 2
P.S. George Hamilton still sucks (but not well).
The East Village Other, Jan. 1-15, 1967, p. 11
DRACULA SUCKS, by Lorraine Glennby

Two more examples from EVO in early '67 are notable because they appear in
letters from soldiers criticizing Army life:

The East Village Other, Feb. 15-Mar. 1, 1967, p. 2, col. 2
To continue, may I say that the army sucks and bites.
[letter from Randall S. Strome, U.S. Army Medical Command]
The East Village Other, Apr. 1-15, 1967, p. 2, col. 3
I wouldn't wish this fuckin life on anyone. It sucks. It's no fuckin good.
[letter from Pvt. Jack G. Court]

That usage of "sucks" (and "bites") is in line with Army graffiti
documented from that time. Back in '05 I shared Vietnam-era graffiti
examples written on canvas bunk bottoms in troop transport ships (as
catalogued by Texas Tech's Virtual Vietnam Archive):



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