Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998 07:54:59 -0500
From: "Daniel R. Melamed" daniel.melamed[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU
Subject: So much for the transitive form of this verb

On a recent exam in my basic music history course, I asked students to
write about an early 19th-century critic's colorful description of a
performance by the violin virtuoso Paganini. The translated quotation
read, in part:

"Is this a living being who wishes to delight his audience at the moment of
his dissolution in the art-arena with his last quivering gasp, like a dying
gladiator? Or is it a corpse that has risen from the grave--a vampire, who
would suck, if not the blood from our hearts, at least the money from our

One student wrote in response:

"The performer may "delight" or "suck" but either way entertain."

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.

Daniel R. Melamed
Department of Music, Yale University
daniel.melamed[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
(203) 432-2985 fax: (203) 287-9820