Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998 03:07:02 -0600
From: Mike Salovesh t20mxs1[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Subject: Re: THIS X SUCKS and the historical record

RonButters wrote:

Such a look at the "historical record" to date has shown me amazingly
little in the way of concrete examples of an "off-color" object for SUCK at
the time of the emergence of objectless SUCK in American slang--unless one
hypothesizes that TIT or TEAT is "off-color" and that the phrase SUCK THE
TEAT is the "origin" of objectless SUCK.
It would be helpful if Mandel (and anyone else who would care to
contribute) would make explicit just which potential off-color direct object
they feel intuitively must (have) come after SUCK in the deep-
structure/historical evolution of objectless SUCK. I would be delighted if
Mandel and others would share with me any _data_ they may have about this.

OK, I guess I'll venture some sort of data. When I starting hearing the
term in common use among teenagers (high school and college kids,
perhaps back in the 1960s), it was NOT in the context of "sucking hind
tit". That's an expression that I have used since I don't remember
when, but 1960s kids just didn't pick up on it. That is, if they
understood what I meant at all.

It wasn't what came after the word "suck" that made a difference: it was
the elided predecessor that made sense to these kids. THEIR context was
the word "cocksucker" and its derivatives. Civil rights and Women's Lib
and all that were all very well, but gays were still fair game for open

That was still true at my kids' high school in the early to middle
1980s. Common terms for groups at the school included "band fags", for
those in the band; "lesbian thespians" for those who joined theater
productions; etc.

"Sucks", because of its usually unspoken association with
"cocksucking", did carry overtones of taboo, off-color, unacceptable
speech. As I remember underground teenager publications in my neck of
the woods at the time, there was much more interest in printing the
"ultimate unprintable", and a common word for excrement, than there was
to dwell on words associated with homosexual activities. The objectless
"sucks", however, was used for shock value. For teenagers, the only
shocking context for that word at the time was the one I suggest.

-- mike salovesh salovesh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
anthropology department
northern illinois university PEACE !!!

P.S.: Once more, this is talk about talk, and shouldn't embarass people
in ADS. Nonetheless, I remember George Trager's glee with his own
article associating the word "fuck" with Latin "facere", to do or to
make. He kept citing it for decades after its publication, which I
recall seeing in a journal he was editing when the article appeared.
(I'm convinced the article was wrong. What I never figured out was
whether George was offering a serious etimology, or was just kidding
people who, in his words, "couldn't say shit if they had a mouthful of

Maybe we can talk seriously about words that aren't used in polite
society. Still, we usually try to pass as members of polite society,
and we often have hangups about daring to be serious about such
off-color topics.