Posted by R. Berg on May 02, 2001
In Reply to: Re: That Sucks! posted by ESC on May 02, 2001
: : : My kids and I recently got into a discussion about this saying, and opinions were devided as to whether it just meant 'that's awful' or whether it was actually a very rude saying meaning to suck on a certain part of the male anatomy. Can anybody clear this up?
: : My opinion: This phrase did originally refer to a sexual act, but its meaning has generalized to "That's awful," so that it no longer strikes the average American as obscene. (Any average Americans reading this are invited to correct me.) The Dictionary of American Slang has no entry for it. It does have an entry for "suck," the first sense being a taboo one and the second (derived from the first) being "to curry favor with people in authority." The same book shows a similar history for "suck up to."
: Some of the nicest people use it without thinking about what it means. But I believe most people still know its origin. Young people especially realize that and I've heard them add a little flourish -- "that sucks root." Isn't that awful. Bottom line: I wouldn't say it in front of the preacher.
On the old Bob Newhart show, the one where Bob played a psychologist, he once had the line "That sucks rope." This was a time when network TV was pretty clean. I haven't heard "suck rope" before or since. It sounded like a compromise to allow the character to express disgust while maintaining the pretense that nobody--scriptwriters, actors, audience--had any idea what "sucks" was about.