You suck!

Chicago Tribune, January 24, 2010

I saw this advertisement in the real estate section of the Chicago Tribune last Sunday. I remember when the word “suck” was a swear word! Perhaps I’m just on the verge of becoming a grumpy old man, but maybe that’s the reason I still remember when “suck” was offensive. So imagine my surprise when I saw this ad.

When I was growing up back in the 1960s, an age before political correctness had swept the land, people would purposefully insult each other. No holds barred. If someone had a physical deformity or a mental defect, that was exactly what the insulting party focused on. Racial slurs were not only permitted, but wholeheartedly encouraged.

But getting back to the word “suck,” most people who use the word today don’t even realize why they’re using it. Once, one of my students said, “Exams suck!” and many of the other students in the class agreed. She had a quizzical look on her face after she said it. Then, she said, “What does that even mean?” It seems no one knows what “suck” even means nowadays. No wonder I hear it on the radio and TV all the time. That’s because no one knows the history of the word “suck.”

But getting back to the 1960s, if someone wanted to insult you, they would–in so many words–say that you performed fellatio, back in an era when oral sex was frowned upon. The main offense was to insult someone’s manhood by implying he was homosexual. If someone did something stupid–and just about everything qualified as being “something stupid”–the person who didn’t like what you did would say, “You blow!” Sometimes people would hurl the insult to pedestrians as they drove by. Sometimes it was incorporated into everyday conversation: “Why aren’t you inviting Allouicious to your party?” “Because Allouicious blows!”

Somewhere along the line, “blow” received fierce competition from “suck.” Both words referred to the same sexual act of fellatio. The only point of contention seemed to hinge on the direction of air flow. But both terms were equally insulting in a homophobic manner. No one argued that! If you did, people would not only say, “You blow!”, but also, “You suck!” It was the great philosophical debate of my generation. Is it better to blow or to suck?

Well, flash forward to the present, and the people using the word “suck” are unaware of the history of the word “suck” whenever they use it. Just think about it. Can exams really suck? Who wouldn’t like oral sex to relax during a grueling exam. If exams literally sucked, students would love taking exams. And, then afterwards, the students would smile and say, “Yeah, that exam really sucked!”


Students taking a Spanish exam.

I just finished typing up a handout for my Spanish class. I mainly put verb conjugations for whatever tense we studied in class and other pertinent grammatical lessons from the chapter that will appear on the exam. Whenever I make up these handouts, I always wonder why students ask me for them in the first place. All the information in the handout is already in the textbook.

I never needed any handouts when I studied for exams. If fact, when I make up the handout, I pretend that I’m a student studying for the exam and I leaf throught the textbook in looking for things that might be on the exam. But for some unknown reason, students like to have the handout to study for the exam.

One student told me that she liked the handout so she could study on the train. I suppose that’s better than lugging around a textbook. But if the students study for exams, I’m all for passing out handouts. I think that the reason students want the handout is because they feel that it gives them an advantage.

Well, in this age of computers and video games, everyone wants to know how to beat the game, and to that end, a lot of players resort to cheats they find on the Internet. I think this is how my handout functions, as a sort of cheat to do better on the exam.

Well, as long as the students study and they do well on the exam, I’m happy to make up the handout for them. It’s not like I give them the answers. In fact, I put as much information as possible into that handout. Feel free to look at these handouts. The links are located at:

Buena suerte.