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May 8, 2003

Slang of the Week: sucka/sucker (noun)
a foolish person, especially one who is easily taken advantage of

“Lose 40 pounds in three days, while eating ice cream on the sofa!” Ralph hoped that his spam email advertising the Miracle Weight Loss System would reach a lot of suckers.

Celebrity quote:
“Their job (DJs) is to play the records but a lot of them don’t do that, man. All that political shit is for suckas.”
-Rapper Grafh

P.T. Barnum is reported to have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He would have known – he made his fortune by tricking people out of their money. He started his career in 1835 by exhibiting a supposedly 161-year-old woman who claimed to have taken care of the young George Washington. In New York and London, he made money hand over fist (made a lot of money) from people who wanted to get a good look at her. After that, he succeeded in conning (tricking) the public into paying to see a fake “mermaid” and a fake “fossil of a giant”, among other things, in his traveling show.

Later, in his American Museum in New York City, he put up signs reading “This way to the egress” – a fancy way of saying “exit.” Less educated patrons (suckers) naturally assumed the egress was some kind of exotic creature and followed the signs, accidentally leaving the museum. Then they had to pay again to get back in.

Incidentally, freak shows like Barnum’s (the kind with the “smallest man” and “bearded lady”) gave us the word geek, which we’ve used since the 1980s to describe people who love computers a little too much. The original geek was a freak that entertained the crowd by biting the head off a live chicken. Though the word has become less negative in recent years, its source should give you some idea of how popular computer geeks were back when Bill Gates was in college.

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