Saturday, July 18, 2015

Babies Suck

My class consisted of one [count 'em -- one] kid who was not yet ready for confirmation class with the pastor.  So during confirmation class, he and I would sit in my dining room and work on memory work, basic Bible stories, stuff like that.  One night he exclaimed about something not-to-his-liking, "That sucks!"

My eyebrows went up.  I gasped.  "You will not talk like that around me and my children.  You may apologize and not use that phrase any more while here!" 

"What?  What did I say?"

"You know what you said."

"But what's wrong with that?"

Kid kept claiming to not understand what the big deal was.  He kept asking me to explain to him what the problem was.  I thought he was being obnoxious.  But now I wonder.  Maybe he wasn't being intentionally provocative and ugly-mouthed.  Maybe he just didn't know the origins of that phrase.

One day when I was in junior high, some high-school fellows drove by and mooned the PE class.  A bunch of us were talking about it at lunch.  When I said, "Yeah, he stuck his a** out the top of the car for everybody to see," gasps exploded around the table.  "Susan said 'a**'!  Can you believe that Susan said that?!"  That's when I discovered that a** is not a substitute-word for hiney or tuschie or bottom.  I didn't know.  I used a word that I heard people using, and I knew what the word meant, but I didn't realize that it was considered naughty.

Many years later, I mentioned something about one of my daughters looking "hot" in a particular dress.  I thought it meant "pretty" or "fantastic" or "especially dolled up."  I didn't know that it had somewhat sleazy connotations until I saw the reaction of the people to whom I'd said it.  Whoa.  Botched it again.  Major embarrassment!

So maybe my student that day really didn't know the implications of the word "sucks." 

When something "stinks," there's a reason we use that word.  If a potato or raw meat or a rotten egg "stinks," it is spoiled.  It makes the atmosphere around it unpleasant.  Thus, if a situation stinks, it is likewise bad and unpleasant. 

I think a lot of young people don't have a clue where the word "sucks" came from in the 60s and 70s.  They're so used to hearing the word as a synonym for "that stinks" or "that's awful" that they never stop to consider what the word is referring to. 

Babies suck to eat.
Babies suck on their thumbs.
Bigger people suck on soda-pop straws or even the cap of their pen.

But can we please please please stop using the word "sucks" to describe things we don't like?