Posted by R. Berg on May 26, 2001
In Reply to: To 'suck up' posted by ESC on May 25, 2001
: : : : : We have a particularly hot spell here in the UK - upper 20sC, around 80F. This on top of all the electioneering going on!. Never-the-less, the politicking has thrown up a phrase on a regular basis when various politicians are accused of 'sucking up' to this or other faction. There's no good origin in any of my reference books, only analogies to 'bootlicking' etc. There seems nothing in the archive. Any idea of the origin, anyone? The phrase is quoted as' mid 19c'. so it's fairly old.
: : : : I see a baby sucking up nutrients from a bottle just as George W. Bush has sucked up his "nutrients" from the US oil, banking and drug companies.
: : : :
: : : : "Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend theirself."-George W. Bush,On how far we'd be willing to go to defend Taiwan, Good Morning America, April 25, 2001
: : : The history of the term isn't that respectable. Entry for "suck up to [someone]" from the Dictionary of American Slang: "To curry favor with someone by being exceptionally agreeable, or by doing menial jobs for that person." This definition is followed by a cross-reference to another phrase, nearby in the alphabet, whose meaning makes clear that "suck up to" implies an exchange of sexual services for some sort of reward.
: : Thanks. I guessed as much! Out of interest, there's another use of the word 'suck' in a colloquial sense with an interesting association.
: : "To 'suck' someone is to swindle them, to 'suck them' into some devious scheme or other - hence 'sucker'".
: This is just an idea. The runt in a litter of pigs gets the "hind teat," apparently not a desirable turn of events. Maybe "sucking up" is trying to work your way up to a better spot.
But the element of humiliation is missing from the piglet hypothesis. Little piggy doesn't have to do anything self-sacrificing to advance to a better seat at the lunch counter (cf. "curry favor . . . doing menial jobs," above); it only has to scramble to the desired place.