Friday, May 22, 2009
By Max Kalehoff You can't deny it: The word "suck" has gone mainstream.
Its growth has been especially obvious in online media, but also in personal interactions, in business and with friends. The slang has been used for decades in conversation, but its usage in formal and written contexts seems to have exploded in recent years, especially in news publications. I'm sure the conversational nature of social and online media, coupled with a desire among people to appear young and hip, have fueled this trend. To be sure, the word is pithy, assertive and irreplaceable.
So I started writing a short essay about its place in modern culture, but I soon discovered that Seth Stevenson had already written a fine analysis in Slate. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Still, I was curious about the momentum of the word. So I turned to Google News to obtain a historical view. According to Google, roughly 296,000 news articles mentioned the words "suck" or "sucks" between 1900 and 2008. Of those articles, roughly 204,000, or 69%, were published in the years 2000 to 2008.
Indeed, the apparent explosion in usage is probably influenced by two mechanical factors: 1) More electronic versions of publications emerged in recent years, which Google can easily index; and 2) personal online diaries (or blogs) emerged in the last decade, and many are now part of the Google News index.
But even if the explosion in usage of the word "suck" among news organizations was misrepresented by inconsistent methodologies or technologies, usage seems to have peaked in 2007, for which Google News reported 32,600 instances. In 2008, there were 30,300 instances.
The future? I think suck is an ugly word, and too much usage could get annoying. But, no doubt, it's the optimal word in many situations. It has real purpose. Therefore, my forecast is that usage will hold steady, and it will eventually lose any slang stigma.
And that's where we stand on the word "suck." What do you think?
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Max Kalehoff is vice president of marketing for Clickable, a search-marketing solution for small and mid-size businesses. He also writes AttentionMax.com
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