Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 10:22:15 -0500
Subject: Suck eggs and die!

The estimable RonButters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM writes:

In a message dated 3/23/98 7:55:19 AM, someone wrote:

In this view, the performer might not "suck blood . . ." or "suck money . . ."
but merely "suck." This suggests that some
people don't look for a direct object of "suck" used this way. Maybe that's why
it is no longer necessarily considered
obscene--an implied off-color object ("That sucks []") doesn't even figure in
(younger?) people's use of the phrase.

There is considerable evidence that SUCK in its slang senses was NEVER
"considered obscene." I mean, direct objects were ALWAYS expressed in the
1920s-60s and they were "wind," "eggs," and "rope" (e.g., "You suck eggs!"
"That really sucks wind!/rope!"). "Historically, the use of SUCK as an expletive
with an "off-color object" does not exist in
the written record in any place that I am aware of. Whatever you are filling in
for the "[]" has no historical basis--except
maybe as a kind of semantic back-formation, but the
"off-color object" is very much in the mind of the beholder; it ain't in the
historical record, even as it is definitely not in the
minds of most contemporary users.

And what IS "in the historical record"? What got written and published. IIRC,
the expression "suck" without d.o.
originated, or at least spread to cover the country, ex oribus teenagers, at a
time when "suck" with d.o.s such as you
list was obsolete or obsolescent in colloquial speech with any meaning at all
like the current one (which I would express
as "be bad, be of poor quality, be undesirable, be despicable; [of an event or
situation] be unfortunate").

IMHO the "off-color object" was definitely in the minds of the beholder *and the
user* at the time when the objectless
verb became popular, which was probably part of its shock value. A generation
has elapsed -- several generations of
teenagers -- and if the implied object and its connotations have faded in
transition, we should neither be surprised nor
conclude that they were never there.

Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 796-0267
320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
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