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Jan. 26 2010 - 2:52 pm | 115 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

You know who sucks? People who say ‘Suck’

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in the world:

Those who throw around the word suck, and those who don’t.

The fact that I feel this even needs mentioning should be a clue that I belong in the latter category.  Maybe this makes me an old fogey, or even a bluenose.  It certainly puts me at odds with every short-tempered chump on the internet and sports talk radio.

But I care what words come out of my kids’ mouths, especially when those words (and other mild profanity) get me called in to talk with the counselors at school.  When I dandled my little poppets on my knee many years ago by the light of the peat fire, I was confident my guiding hand would keep them from swearing like truck drivers.  What I didn’t know was that a constant current of mildly vulgar profanity would become everyone’s daily experience.

The word certainly is getting heavy use in pop culture.  Dennis Leary’s Why We Suck.  A girls’ math primer from Danica McKellar (innocent Winnie Cooper of “The Wonder Years”!) called Math Doesn’t Suck.  Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You (which brings up but selfishly avoids the question of what our lives are like with her).  Within a year or two, I think it will manage to work its way into TV sitcoms, like “pissed” and “crap” have (two other words that brought us into the school meeting).

The word is coarse, urgent, flip, sort of edgy to some.  Of course, its constant use has made it seem commonplace, even acceptable.  Soon its derivation and provenance will begin to fade, and it will just come to mean the same thing as stink.

But the source of the word’s power is there and can’t be denied.  When I’ve tried to correct kids and teenagers about using suck in front of me, I’ll get a blank look.  “Why?  What’s wrong with it?”

“Here’s what’s wrong with it,” I say.  “Back in the day, something didn’t just suck.  In order to be really lousy, it had to suck … something.  Private body parts, mostly.  Eggs.  Donkeys.  Dead bears.”

It is priceless how their mouths will drop open from this bit of candor.  They’d never thought about it before.  Then, of course, they phase me out and go on their merry way, but at least I got through for the tiniest moment.

The next time you feel like saying something sucks, think for a minute what it is or might be sucking.  Hold that picture in your head for a while.  Think of that glorious turn of phrase, when we used to describe this action working on “the big one.”

Then think of another word that doesn’t suck the dignity out of the English language.


Comments

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  1. collapse expand

    I’m pretty sure that dandling poppets is illegal

  2. collapse expand

    Maybe we can get “egregious” into common parlance instead? I agree.

  3. collapse expand

    Poppet dandlers are now banding together to make it a more acceptable practice in polite society.

    And as far as synonyms go, I haven’t been able to find any good ones (How clumsy is it to say, “That’s abhorrent”). But that doesn’t mean I want to be faced with suction at every turn.

  4. collapse expand

    I’ll stop saying and/or writing “suck(s)” when and if “meme,” “nuanced,” and “do the Math” are banned from the Internet. And not before.

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    About Me

    I'm a writer and performer in Chicago. My most famous book is Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, which was an international best seller. I'm also the author of its two sequels, Once Upon a More Enlightened Time and Politically Correct Holiday Stories, as well as Apocalypse WOW! and Recut Madness: Classic Movies Retold for Your Partisan Pleasure. I'm also in charge of the baseball poetry website, Bardball.com.

    As a native of Detroit and a current resident of Chicago, I have never lived more than 45 minutes from one of the Great Lakes. I embody most of the traits that the provincial coastal elites attribute to the Midwest: slow-talking, resistant to change, methodical, in love with a good Italian beef sandwich, keep socks on during intimate moments. Rather than hindrances, I’ve found these to be valuable tools for getting through life, especially when dealing with provincial coastal elites.

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