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I came across the phrase, “suck it up and go” in the columnist’s answer to a question from a reader of Carolyn Hax's column in Washington Post’s “Lifestyle” section (July 2nd). The Q&A titled “Ever the aunt, never the godmom” begins with the following sentence:

“Dear Carolyn: We just got an invitation to the baptism of my seventh nephew on my husband’s side. Once again we were not considered as godparents. I felt snubbed. -- Is this a legitimate snub? Should I talk to my sister-in-law about it?”

and Carolyn answers:

“Boycotting the baptism in a wounded huff would be petty, yes, and that’s the main reason to suck it up and go - but you also need to go because nothing would undermine your own purpose more tidily than staying home.”

I checked the meaning of “suck it up and go” in English Japanese dictionaries at hand only to find one of them shows “suck it and see” meaning “to try” as a British and Australian usage. Online dictionaries register “suck it (up) and “go suck,” but not “suck it up and go.”

What does “suck it up and go” mean? Is it an American version of “suck it and see”?

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A common connotation is that the person who should "suck it up" is making too big a deal out of something. That is, stop complaining and just do whatever it is. – mkennedy Jul 3 '11 at 4:21
The phrase "suck it up" contains a literal component. For example, when two people are in a heated discussion and one of them says something he shouldn't have said, the other person (who was likely offended) can do one of at least two things: 1) take umbrage and lash back with something equally offensive; or 2) suck in a deep breath and in that instant determine NOT to take offense or lash back. The literal "deep-breath" is a way of taking a moment to clear one's head, as it were--kind of like "counting to 10" before doing something rash. Once your head is clear, you continue talking. – rhetorician Nov 7 '15 at 18:37
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The idiom suck it up meaning to stoically endure hardship in order to achieve some objective, or meet expectations, seems to have started to gain currency in the mid-1970s.

A somewhat graphic etymology put forward in Urban dictionary is that it's pilot slang. If you vomit into your mask, you'd better suck it up. Otherwise, you can inhale it and die. I can't deny that may be true - but I'd rather not think about it too much!

Here's a Wiktionary "talk" page dismissing the WW2 pilot slang origin. Their actual entry for the phrase says it probably derives from "suck up one's chest", but I must say "suck in one's stomach" is more common for stand tall and straight, stoically ready to be judged/subjected to adversity. Whatever - I'll just say the origin is "uncertain".

The italicising of suck it up and go is by OP. The and go [to the baptism] isn't part of the idiom - it's just the hardship to be endured in this particular case (the aunt obviously doesn't want to go if she's still not to honoured as a godparent).

Obviously this idiom is unrelated to suck it and see (try out an idea). Interestingly, there's also suck it all in (to wholeheartedly embrace all aspects of a novel experience or environment). But to suck in the sense of "be inferior" also got started in the 70's, and is now ubiquitous, along with suck my dick. So quite likely "positive" idioms like suck it all in will fall into disuse because they clash with the more common negative usages.

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@Fingers. After posting this question, I realized my primitive mistake of combining ‘suck it up’ and ‘go’ together as an idiom. It was separate word blocks meaning ‘put up with it (feeling of being snubbed by her sister-in-law),’ and ‘go to the baptism.’ Am I right? – Yoichi Oishi Jul 3 '11 at 5:05
@Yoichi Oishi: Don't be apologetic. You didn't know the idiom, so you couldn't be expected to know exactly which words were part of it. I just mentioned the fact that you italicised and go incorrectly to make it clear that these words are not part of the idiom. – FumbleFingers Jul 3 '11 at 5:10
Perhaps "take a deep breath" is a good image for "suck it up" – horatio May 10 '12 at 16:26
@horatio: I certainly agree that "take a deep breath", "stand up straight [with chest out and shoulders back]", and "pull your stomach in" all convey the general sense of brace yourself. But the first two imply ...to meet adversity, where the last one better suits ...for inspection/judgement. That's why I can't fully go with Wikipedia's etymology. – FumbleFingers May 10 '12 at 16:43

The phrase suck it up means to put up with something, deal with with it, without complaining. Carolyn answers that she should deal with the fact that she isn't a godparent, not complain and silently attend the baptism as invited.

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More likely "she" as the letter-writer says "my husband" (yes, it could be a gay couple). – mkennedy Jul 3 '11 at 4:19
Haha, your comment is so hilarious! Thanks, edited. – RiMMER Jul 3 '11 at 4:22

suck it up is akin to get over it or brace yourself. It implies resistance against some action but, if really desired, one could deal with it or just do it.

"Suck it up and go" means the same thing, but in this example it specifically refers to going to the baptism. The aunt feels snubbed and, therefore, sees the baptism very negatively. To "suck it up and go" means to put those feelings aside and approach the baptism as a positive thing in order to support her sister-in-law.

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PS: This is completely tangential, but suck it up is drastically unrelated to suck it down. – MrHen Jul 3 '11 at 1:58

I always inferred that this was a metaphor for the act of hardening your abdominal muscles so that you could take a punch to the gut without flinching. (Not something I have any literal experience of! So I don't know for sure if sucking in your breath would do the trick, but that was my assumption.) The expression means to demonstrate toughness by enduring something unfair or unpleasant staunchly, with minimum fuss - because the act of doing so both preserves dignity and makes whatever it is easier to endure.

Lately I heard the aviation theory about what you would need to do if you vomited into your mask - I guess that works, but ... yeuchhhh!

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When a boxer is being treated between rounds, one of the common treatments is to put a glob of some sort of astringent on a Q-tip up the nose to try to stop a nosebleed.

The trainer will often tell the fighter to inhale sharply to get the medicine to the point of bleeding by telling them to literally 'suck it up' their nose. Not saying this is the actual origin, but it seems to me to be a good contender (pun intended).

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StackExchange generally discourages speculation in answers; it leads to chatty dialog. Though I did laugh at your pun. – Dan Bron Jul 31 '15 at 17:15

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