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A return to humor.

by Dear Jon
December 14, 2001

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Sort 103_Dear Jon-A return to humor. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Do you know when "suck" as used in the forums of The Partial Observer, became standard English? Is this part of being "post-modern"?

Signed, Usage Police


Dear Usage,

You are referring to some headers in the Football forum, "The Bears Suck," "The Bears Do NOT Suck," "I Guess the Bears Suck After All."

While there may be more technical definitions referring to the use of an aperture to move contents through a vacuum, "suck" as generally used is a verb that describes the use of one's mouth enclosed on an object. So we do not mean that the Bears "suck" like a vacuum cleaner "sucks," because a vacuum cleaner is supposed to suck, and is marketed according to its ability to suck. However, someone might say, "Drat, this vacuum cleaner SUCKS," meaning actually that the vacuum cleaner is not sucking like it should.

Even when referring to the action of a human mouth, the imagery covers a wide range of contexts. Anyone sucks who uses a straw according to its design. What is universal in this imagery is that sucking is an absorbing activity.

Someone who is sucking pop through a straw is at least distracted from any other activity. I have sucked pop while driving. I have done it safely, but the fact is, when I am sucking pop I am less safe than otherwise, particularly if an emergency happens. There was an incredible invention in which a guy could attach beer cans to his head and have straws that wrapped around to his mouth, so that his hands were free. These might be good to have at football games, but the fact is, while the guy is sucking, he cannot be cheering.

It is considered rude to bring drinks for sucking into lectures and worship services and meetings unless there has been some kind of express permission to do so. Those who carry Big Gulps into the Quarterly Projections meeting, are announcing that they are unable to meet their needs at the alotted, appropriate times, such as during the coffee break scheduled to take place in 75 minutes, and require the comfort of a need-based distraction.

The same is true for hard-candy and the "no gum" rule that once held sway in school classrooms before sensible discipline was litigated out the principal's office. When people are expecting you to participate in a dialogue, it is inconsiderate to be forming your words while your tongue is wrapped around a peppermint. It is also inconsiderate to have the "slurp" or "smacking" sounds associated with sucking when concentration is supposed to be focussed on a presenter or on a task. The reason why schools suck so bad is that litigious parents and bleeding-heart pscyho-babbling academics of "educationese" have determined that students themselves should be allowed to suck and still feel good about themselves. "I'm Okay, You're Okay" should be rephrased to "I Suck, You Suck, It Doesn't Matter."

I hope the Japanese do not adopt our system along with adopting other western values. We need someone in our world to keep things running, like power grids and car factories, when the U.S. finally flushes ourselves down the toilet of self-esteem management. At least India is training Doctors.

So when we say, "The Bears Suck," we mean that the players contracted to the Chicago Bears Professional Football franchise play as though they are unfocussed to the task at hand, such as maintaining the division lead over the arch-rival Green Bay Packers. Lack of focus and distraction is reflected in tentative, indecisive and unskilled play.

We know that some children suck their thumbs even into puberty, not just while asleep, but in public. Beyond a certain age, like 3, we find this disconcerting and embarrassing because the child knows better. In my usage, something sucks, like a football game, if the people involved know better than to play the way they are playing. Steven Spielberg's movie "1941" sucks. Spielberg knew better and so did his studio who may have blackballed him into the contract.

Nothing is more infuriating than to have a Congress that passes laws which suck. As an electorate, we need to elect people we can trust to make it their job to only pass laws with sober regard toward the founding principles of our nation as articulated in our Constitution, no matter the opinion polls of the moment. Anything short of that standard, sucks.

To say that something "sucks," therefore, is to hold something and someone to a standard of commitment, capability, and performance. To suck is to fail at that standard through distraction, misplaced priorities, and the lack of preparation, foresight, and maturity. The allegory is drawn to the person who is sucking on something when they should be focussed on the task and considerate of others.

I feel another Top Ten List coming on!

The Top Ten Things or People in Our World that Suck:

10. The bumper sticker says it best: "Mean People Suck."
9. Tollways suck.
8. Cell-phones and pagers suck.
7. Indecisive drivers suck.
6. Tail-gaters suck.
5. Parking Lot Price-Gouging sucks.
4. Executives who force employees to keep their stock while exercising their own options to sell out just before the news is published that causes the whole company to tank and the stock to become worthless and the employees laid off, those executives should be parachuted into Tora Bora and then bombed alongside Al Qaeda terrorists beyond the ability to trace their DNA, because they suck.
3. Al Qaeda terrorists suck.
2. Home-grown American paranoid bigot terrorists suck.
1. Major League Baseball's market-monopolizing and revenue-hoarding system, sucks.

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