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You Suck

AC,

What does it mean when someone says something sucks, does it come from the slang for oral sex?

Thanks
Momzdebom

Dear Momzdebom,

The short answer is “Yes, it does come from the slang for oral sex.” But for anyone who is now embarrassed that they’ve been using this expression without knowing that, don’t worry. The word lost its sexual meaning long ago. Suck came into being around the 1920s and originally meant "give oral sex to men." However, since the 1960s, the primary meaning of You suck! has been "you are inferior."

Obviously, there is a connection – for all our political correctness, you can still find American high school boys (and others) who call each other gay as the ultimate insult. In my dim memories of the seventies, the people who used You suck! most often were guys looking to get into a fight. Women didn’t use it as much then. In fact, I seem to remember using it myself back in the day and having my mother pull over to the side of the road to lecture me, horrified that such a thing could come out of my innocent mouth.

But things have changed. These days, everyone uses suck to talk about inferiority (well, maybe not my mother). Here in Boston, for example, it's hard to walk through Harvard Square without hearing about how the weather or the Yankees suck. Though not appropriate in formal situations, it has become acceptable just about everywhere else.

Your pal,

A. C. Kemp

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