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  #1  
Old 10-27-2010, 06:32 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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On the etymology of "sucks"

I've been reading Narnia books to my daughter recently, and midway through Prince Caspian I was quite startled to see, in among all the "By Jove"s and "Great Scott"s and the like, the following line:

(context: Edmund explaining why he, and not Peter, should be the one to take on a fencing match with another character)

"It will be more of a sucks for him if I win, and less of a let-down for us all if I fail"

That's almost modern slang there. Except that a 2010 character would probably say "will suck more" rather than "more of a sucks". But clearly, the derivation of the slang that he's using there can't be the same as the modern slang "sucks" - not in a 1950s kids book anyway!

So what does it mean? What's the derivation? Anyone here old enough to remember 1950's British slang first time around?
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  #2  
Old 10-27-2010, 07:20 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
11. pl. as int. Used as an expression of contempt, chiefly by children. Also in phr. sucks to you and varr. slang.

1913 C. MACKENZIE Sinister Street I. I. vii. 98 This kid's in our army, so sucks! 1922 F. HAMILTON P.J.: Secret Service Boy iv. 178 ‘S’, he announced, ‘u,c,k,s,t,o,y,o,u.’ 1935 N. MITCHISON We have been Warned I. 28 Brian is a baby. Oh sucks, oh sucks on Brian. 1945 E. WAUGH Brideshead Revisited II. v. 287 It's great sucks to Bridey. 1952 ‘C. BRAND’ London Particular xv. 191 A most regretable air of sucks to you. 1968 Melody Maker 30 Nov. 24/5 This is a rotten recordyah boo and sucks. 1974 Times 4 Mar. 9/5 Sucks boo, then, with acting like this, to that new National Theatre down the road. 1978 ‘J. LYMINGTON’ Waking of Stone ii. 45 ‘Sucks to you!’ she said..tossing her head so her pigtails swung. 1983 Listener 19 May 11/1 The council treated the urbane Mr Cook to the politician's equivalent of ‘Yah, boo, sucks’.
.

Rather British.
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  #3  
Old 10-27-2010, 07:24 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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I just checked the OED (the Oxford English Dictionary) and one of the definitions for the term "sucks" is that it's used as either an interjection or a noun in exactly the sense you describe. Furthermore, it was mostly a children's term. The examples given make it clear that it wasn't thought of being obscene, just childish. I think from the examples it was mostly a British term. The entry describes it as possibly being a shorter version of "sucks to you" which has the same meaning, both as in interjection or as a noun.
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Old 10-27-2010, 08:33 AM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Now that you mention it, I do remember my dad using "Yah boo sucks" on various occasions.

As an expression, it's still kind of lacking in the "making sense" department though...
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  #5  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:42 AM
Jormungandr Jormungandr is offline
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I remember being told two origins of it in the 80s-90s. One origin is that it's a shorten form of "go suck some eggs" or other various objects. That would go with the children's saying

The second origin is that it has to do with oral sex. To get on one's knees and "suck" was humiliating. So, it could be the children's variant of "blow me."
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  #6  
Old 10-27-2010, 10:39 AM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by OED
11. pl. as int. Used as an expression of contempt, chiefly by children. Also in phr. sucks to you and varr. slang.

1913 C. MACKENZIE Sinister Street I. I. vii. 98 This kid's in our army, so sucks! 1922 F. HAMILTON P.J.: Secret Service Boy iv. 178 ‘S’, he announced, ‘u,c,k,s,t,o,y,o,u.’ 1935 N. MITCHISON We have been Warned I. 28 Brian is a baby. Oh sucks, oh sucks on Brian. 1945 E. WAUGH Brideshead Revisited II. v. 287 It's great sucks to Bridey. 1952 ‘C. BRAND’ London Particular xv. 191 A most regretable air of sucks to you. 1968 Melody Maker 30 Nov. 24/5 This is a rotten recordyah boo and sucks. 1974 Times 4 Mar. 9/5 Sucks boo, then, with acting like this, to that new National Theatre down the road. 1978 ‘J. LYMINGTON’ Waking of Stone ii. 45 ‘Sucks to you!’ she said..tossing her head so her pigtails swung. 1983 Listener 19 May 11/1 The council treated the urbane Mr Cook to the politician's equivalent of ‘Yah, boo, sucks’.
Rather British.
They left out the best one! "Sucks to your asth-mar!" - Lord of the Flies
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  #7  
Old 10-27-2010, 11:02 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is online now
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Originally Posted by Jormungandr View Post
I remember being told two origins of it in the 80s-90s. One origin is that it's a shorten form of "go suck some eggs" or other various objects. That would go with the children's saying

The second origin is that it has to do with oral sex. To get on one's knees and "suck" was humiliating. So, it could be the children's variant of "blow me."
Obligatory Johnny Cash link.
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  #8  
Old 10-27-2010, 11:40 AM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jormungandr View Post
The second origin is that it has to do with oral sex. To get on one's knees and "suck" was humiliating. So, it could be the children's variant of "blow me."
I used to play the videogame SimCity a lot. In one version of the game, there was a text crawl on the bottom of the screen containing citizen complaints. If you set the tax rate too high, one of the complaints was "taxes suck." Someone complained on one of the official or unofficial forums about the game that the language was inappropriate.
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  #9  
Old 10-27-2010, 12:25 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
They left out the best one! "Sucks to your asth-mar!" - Lord of the Flies
You beat me to it!
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  #10  
Old 10-27-2010, 12:39 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
But clearly, the derivation of the slang that he's using there can't be the same as the modern slang "sucks" - not in a 1950s kids book anyway!
And what do you think the derivation the modern slang "sucks" is?
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  #11  
Old 10-27-2010, 12:42 PM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
They left out the best one! "Sucks to your asth-mar!" - Lord of the Flies
That's the first thing I thought of too.
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  #12  
Old 10-27-2010, 02:24 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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In an old Three Stooges short (not sure which one since it's just a clip I found), Curly says, "If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking until you do succeed!" In retrospect it seems like a pun of a sort, and given the character inveterate naivete, it may not have been intended precisely as the modern idiom is now. Since Jerome Howard died in 1952, it has to have come from before then obviously.
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  #13  
Old 10-27-2010, 03:34 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
"It will be more of a sucks for him if I win, and less of a let-down for us all if I fail"

That's almost modern slang there. Except that a 2010 character would probably say "will suck more" rather than "more of a sucks". But clearly, the derivation of the slang that he's using there can't be the same as the modern slang "sucks" - not in a 1950s kids book anyway!
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
They left out the best one! "Sucks to your asth-mar!" - Lord of the Flies
Could it be a variant of "shucks"?
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  #14  
Old 10-27-2010, 04:09 PM
Indistinguishable Indistinguishable is online now
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Although many assume the modern slang "sucks" is derived from fellatio, my impression is that this is not at all actually clear from the etymological evidence. It is quite possible that the phrase derived elsewise, and only later acquired the sexual connotations.
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  #15  
Old 10-27-2010, 05:06 PM
Damfino Damfino is offline
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The phrase "Yar! Sucks! Boo!" as a derogatory expression occurs frequently in the Billy Bunter school stories by Frank Richards. I doubt any sexual connotation is implied.
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  #16  
Old 10-27-2010, 06:49 PM
J.D.G J.D.G is offline
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From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Quote:
Suck
O.E. sucan, from PIE root *sug-/*suk- of imitative origin (cf. O.S., O.H.G. sugan, O.N. suga, M.Du. sughen, Du. zuigen, Ger. saugen "to suck;" L. sugere "to suck," succus "juice, sap;" O.Ir. sugim, Welsh sugno "to suck"). Meaning "do fellatio" is first recorded 1928. Slang sense of "be contemptible" first attested 1971 (the underlying notion is of fellatio). Suck eggs is from 1906. Suck hind tit "be inferior" is Amer.Eng. slang first recorded 1940.

Last edited by J.D.G; 10-27-2010 at 06:52 PM..
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  #17  
Old 10-27-2010, 10:15 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
They left out the best one! "Sucks to your asth-mar!" - Lord of the Flies
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
You beat me to it!
First thing I thought of.

Only, I thought he said 'arse mar'.
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  #18  
Old 10-27-2010, 10:31 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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There seem to be two quite different slang meanings of "sucks" involved here. "You suck," means something like you are disgusting (or mean, or horrible). "Sucks to you," (or "Yah, boo sucks," and other variants) means something like I don't care about you or what you say. It seems perfectly plausible to me that these two usages might have quite unconnected origins, and that the first (which is now, surely, much more common) has to do with oral sex.
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  #19  
Old 10-27-2010, 11:09 PM
Civil Guy Civil Guy is offline
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Hmm... in the absence of legitimate etymology, other than the direct Oxford English Dictionary and Online Etymology Dictionary references... it seems sensible to me that 'sucking' could be thought demeaning even if not applied to oral sex. And ya know, I'm not sure why anyone practicing fellatio would deserve contempt. Gratitude, yes, but contempt?

Chicken eggs are sucked by grandmas, and babes suck at mother's breast; both signs / conditions of fraility and weakness. I bet that where "that sucks" comes from originally, somehow or other.
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  #20  
Old 10-27-2010, 11:14 PM
Aspidistra Aspidistra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
And what do you think the derivation the modern slang "sucks" is?
I was assuming an oral sex component of the origin. My evidence would be that when people are trying to intensify their use of the term they often turn to things like "sucks donkey cock" or "sucks the sweat off a dead man's balls". I admit I have no particular evidence that these elements were present when the term was originated, but they seem to go together quite naturally in many people's minds.
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  #21  
Old 10-28-2010, 12:24 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
I was assuming an oral sex component of the origin. My evidence would be that when people are trying to intensify their use of the term they often turn to things like "sucks donkey cock" or "sucks the sweat off a dead man's balls". I admit I have no particular evidence that these elements were present when the term was originated, but they seem to go together quite naturally in many people's minds.
Yes, so does "this blows", and we have fair certainty that the term originated as "this blows chunks", and it too is now used in phrases such as "blows goats".

I suspect that as society became cruder, or at least more tolerant of crudity in children, a lot of older and politer words became corrupted into crude form. "Insult-head" would be another example, starting out with mild insults such as "pumpkin head" and degenerating into "dick head". Despite that, dickhead doesn't refer to the head of a penis, though they seem to go together quite naturally.
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  #22  
Old 10-28-2010, 02:44 AM
AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet is offline
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On a related note, where does the term " go suck an egg come from? What the heck is egg sucking anyway? I remember Miss Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables telling Marilla about an adopted boy who used to suck eggs.
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  #23  
Old 10-28-2010, 03:02 AM
Manduck Manduck is offline
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Originally Posted by AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet View Post
On a related note, where does the term " go suck an egg come from? What the heck is egg sucking anyway? I remember Miss Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables telling Marilla about an adopted boy who used to suck eggs.
You poke a hole in each end of an egg and suck the contents out through one of them. It's a real thing that people can do if they like raw egg.
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  #24  
Old 10-28-2010, 10:21 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Originally Posted by AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet View Post
On a related note, where does the term " go suck an egg come from? What the heck is egg sucking anyway? I remember Miss Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables telling Marilla about an adopted boy who used to suck eggs.
I'd been thinking about starting a thread asking where 'Don't try to teach your grandmother how to suck eggs!' comes from. So since you brought up sucking eggs, I'll ask in this thread.

Manduck says it's a real thing. But did the serious practice start because of the phrase? Or did the phrase come from egg-suckers? The way I read it, the phrase means 'You're attempting to instruct someone who knows much more about the subject than you do.' Presumably it would be just as useless to attempt to instruct one's grandmother to suck eggs. But is it futile because Grandma already knows how to poke holes in an egg and suck it down? (Assume she enjoys raw egg.) Or is it because Grandma is too experienced to fall for the prank of trying to make her eat a raw egg? (Assume that people don't generally like eating raw eggs.)
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  #25  
Old 10-28-2010, 11:04 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Originally Posted by AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet View Post
On a related note, where does the term " go suck an egg come from? What the heck is egg sucking anyway?
Meaning of "Suck Eggs"
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  #26  
Old 10-29-2010, 05:53 PM
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The modern usage is clearly short for "this sucks cock", meaning it's just as bad as if it were a homosexual.
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  #27  
Old 10-29-2010, 06:39 PM
RachelChristine RachelChristine is offline
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We just read Prince Caspian last week and I had the same reaction! I spent an hour or two reading different webpages on the origin of that phrase. It actually took me out of the moment in the book.
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Old 10-29-2010, 06:44 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AboutAsWeirdAsYouCanGet View Post
On a related note, where does the term " go suck an egg come from? What the heck is egg sucking anyway? I remember Miss Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables telling Marilla about an adopted boy who used to suck eggs.
I'd hazard a guess that it may be related to the phrase "Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs"
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Old 10-29-2010, 07:18 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Originally Posted by sqweels View Post
The modern usage is clearly short for "this sucks cock", meaning it's just as bad as if it were a homosexual.
"Clearly"?
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  #30  
Old 10-30-2010, 01:20 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aspidistra View Post
I was assuming an oral sex component of the origin. My evidence would be that when people are trying to intensify their use of the term they often turn to things like "sucks donkey cock" or "sucks the sweat off a dead man's balls". I admit I have no particular evidence that these elements were present when the term was originated, but they seem to go together quite naturally in many people's minds.
When I was in school in the 70s, we used to identify some girl or other as being able to suck a watermelon through a picket fence.
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  #31  
Old 10-30-2010, 01:25 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
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I always heard that it was an insult between men. If you told a man that he "sucks" that meant that he sucked dick and was therefore a homosexual. This, of course, was back in the stone ages when there was something wrong with that.

I could be wrong, though.
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  #32  
Old 10-30-2010, 04:23 PM
handsomeharry handsomeharry is offline
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In the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, c. 1876, IIRC, Tom says that anybody that does "cant remember" will suck eggs.

That's all I got.

Best wishes,
hh
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  #33  
Old 10-30-2010, 08:24 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
When I was in school in the 70s, we used to identify some girl or other as being able to suck a watermelon through a picket fence.
In which case you confalted two different expression, as kids often do.

"Able to eat watermelon/apple through a picket fence" means a girl has a pronounced overbite/buck teeth, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a golf ball through a length of garden hose" means a girl has impressive sucking ability, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a watermelon through a picket fence" doesn't make any sense at all.
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Old 10-30-2010, 10:36 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
In which case you confalted two different expression, as kids often do.

"Able to eat watermelon/apple through a picket fence" means a girl has a pronounced overbite/buck teeth, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a golf ball through a length of garden hose" means a girl has impressive sucking ability, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a watermelon through a picket fence" doesn't make any sense at all.
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  #35  
Old 10-31-2010, 02:36 AM
Weedy Weedy is offline
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There's also the phrase 'sucks hind teat' that describes the runt of a litter.
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  #36  
Old 07-28-2014, 02:43 AM
sswam sswam is offline
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So I'll necro this.

Urban dictionary says:

Quote:
The early Jazz musicians would say that a guy could really "Blow" if he had a good sound when playing the horn. If he couldn't play very well then they would say that he was "Sucking" on that horn. That's where the term "Suck" as being something bad came from.
He plays that horn so poorly that he must be sucking on it.

He doesn't blow, he sucks.
Any truth in that? I couldn't find much evidence elsewhere.

I imagine it could also refer to (homosexual) fellatio, or to a baby breast-feeding as a slur "you're so immature still sucking the teat". Maybe a combined origin thing.

Last edited by sswam; 07-28-2014 at 02:45 AM..
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  #37  
Old 07-28-2014, 03:08 AM
Staggerlee Staggerlee is online now
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I can't imagine the UK use of 'sucks' has that Jazz etymology too though.

As someone else has unearthed this fly-infested thread: maybe 'sucks' refers to 'thumb-sucking'. Not that it can't have evolved separately from other roots too.
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  #38  
Old 07-28-2014, 09:26 AM
DChord568 DChord568 is offline
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All I can say is that in my sniggering adolescent years (mid-60s), my friends and I were quite certain as to the derivation of both "That sucks!" AND "That blows," and that it was unquestionably sexual.

I can't be the only one that, at least for a time, took a bit of an involuntary gasp of breath upon first hearing "That sucks" tossed around so casually in mainstream media by succeeding generations.
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Old 07-28-2014, 02:49 PM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Necro...I like! Welcome to the SDMB, and thanks for bringing a cool and useful new verb with you.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 07-28-2014 at 02:51 PM..
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  #40  
Old 07-30-2014, 12:44 PM
SpeedwayRyan SpeedwayRyan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
In which case you confalted two different expression, as kids often do.

"Able to eat watermelon/apple through a picket fence" means a girl has a pronounced overbite/buck teeth, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a golf ball through a length of garden hose" means a girl has impressive sucking ability, for obvious reasons.

"Able to suck a watermelon through a picket fence" doesn't make any sense at all.
No love for "able to suck the chrome off a trailer hitch?"
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