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My question is about the expression "suck on it."

Background (you can skip this paragraph if you want): at Spanish SE we were doing some back-translating of a game we were playing in Spanish. When we were trying to find an English equivalent for "Si os molesta, tirad de esta," a possible translation as "If it bothers you, suck on it" was proposed. This is not an expression I'm familiar with personally.

The only definition of suck on it I could find is from Urban Dictionary:

  1. that's too bad; deal with it; put up with it; tough luck; tough titty
  2. exclamation of triumph when you want to rub someone's nose in it
    Examples:
    BILL: I just missed out on first prize in the lottery by one number. OWEN: Suck on it.
    As you play the winning move in a game of skill or chance against others, you call out, "Suck on it!"

Okay, the UB entry shows a functional definition and examples of how to use the expression. But what I want to know is, when the people in the conversation say or hear the expression "suck on it," is there a specific, implied referent for "it"?

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    I'm sure you can guess what it is!
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 16:37
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    @AndrewLeach - Yes, but I'm asking if that's always implied when this idiom is used. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 17:47
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    There is a related expression "suck it and see". "They have changed the payments system, what shall we do". Answer "Let's suck it and see".
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:07
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    I'm fairly certain I've several times heard usages such as "Let's suck on that for awhile and see what we come up with", implying that the parties involved should contemplate it for awhile, as if sucking on a lollipop.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 23:06
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    @aparente001 Another figurative use, simply to indicate that the OP's is not a unique metaphorical use of "suck".
    – WS2
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 18:25

7 Answers 7

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Suck on it! usually implies fellatio.

But, it can be contextually clear you don't mean that.

If your thumb bothers you, suck on it.

It can also be used to say, take that:

I'm right and you're wrong. Suck on that!!

As in, keep that in your mouth and "enjoy" it for a while.

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    Well, my proposal was Like it or lump it. What do you think? Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 4:56
  • @aparente001 Seems better to me. I'm not a native speaker, though.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 5:00
  • Hi David, just a minor correction: Spanish "tirar de" would translate to "pull" in English, not "toss".
    – walen
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 6:55
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    @DavidM Not sure if that was sarcasm or not, but no bowing needed, thanks. I just wanted to help :)
    – walen
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 7:36
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    @walen No sarcasm. Just acknowledging that I was incorrect.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 7:36
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I decided to transfer what was meant as a comment into an answer because even constructive comments made without malice can be deleted because the author of a post can be offended by them. Political correctness runs both ways.

It's normally "sucking one's thumb" or "thumb sucking" or "(s)he sucks her/his thumb", not "suck on it".

If the burn or cut is minor, you can suggest "try sucking on it". But in the OP's specific situation no one is going to think the speaker is referring to a thumb, a finger, or any suckable part of the human anatomy that is not the male genitalia.

The, primarily, American English expressions, suck it up, suck on it, are supposed to be vulgar.

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    Suck it up isn't really about fellatio to my mind. It's more of a suck in your gut and get going.
    – David M
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:17
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    @DavidM I am being "general", it's endemic across SE, meta included. In any case, even supported answers written in good faith are deleted by mods. I am heartily fed up.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:24
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    @walen if the expression if you don't like it, suck on it is devoid of context, it will always suggest rudeness. Whether the listener will always consciously think of the penis, it's impossible to say. This is true for any expression where human genitalia or sexual intercourse is normally implied, e.g. Is it hard? Does the word "hard" only refer to the erect penis? No, but in the context where I used it, was it clear I was referring to that? Yes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 9:07
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    Suck it up is not vulgar. "Suck it up buttercup" is a common phrase used even by dad's talking to their very young children. I see your response to David that you are being "general", but I am just adding this comment to say I believe that this is inaccurate even in general. Of course, the English language is a constantly evolving thing and words and phrases take on new meaning as time goes by and different people use them. So your experience may differ from mine, but I come from a family with a VERY Christian background and no one I know would even blink at that phrase.
    – BVernon
    Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 4:50
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    The only people who would think "suck it up" has a bad connotation are those who haven't heard it used in context very often. Someone like that may then pick up on the phrase and misuse it, but that doesn't change the meaning. It doesn't commonly have a vulgar intent... only if you specifically intend it to (in the same sense that you can spell your child's name any way you want and it's not wrong; but that doesn't make it a normal spelling).
    – BVernon
    Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 19:44
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I think the fellatio notion is quite clear:

Suck:

Meaning "do fellatio" is first recorded 1928. Slang sense of "be contemptible" first attested 1971 (the underlying notion is of fellatio).

(Etymonline)

also

Suck (on) this!, a dismissive or challenging exclamation:

1978 [US] H. Selby Jr Requiem for a Dream (1987) 41: [He] told it in a soft, vicious voice, Suck on this.

(GDoS)

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    What about sucking on a lollipop?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 19:57
  • @HotLicks - a euphemism?
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:03
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    @user067531 - "That sucks" may have had its origin in the sexual meaning, but now the phrase has come to take on a more general meaning. I'm trying to find out if that is also the case with "Suck on it." Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:53
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    @aparente001 - the literal expression may be lost in time and the expression may have become a sort of set phrase, just an exclamation.
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 20:56
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    @user067531 - Well, that's what I'm asking -- whether that's the case. // I don't think "suck on this" is the same thing as "suck on it." Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:18
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It's possible that "suck on it" is related to "suck it up" which means to put up with something unpleasant. It is obscure as to its origins but there are suggestions from wiktionary and the Urban dictionary that it comes from: parade ground instructions to "suck in your stomach" when doing pressups; the expression "suck up your chest" meaning to take a deep breath and throw out your chest or from the necessity for a pilot to swallow his own vomit when he's been sick in his breathing mask.

Neither of these sources is exactly reliable and the idea that "suck on it" and "suck it up" are related is tentative but it is a possible meaning for the expression without the sexual inference.

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  • I thought that was a good idea. But then I asked my sixteen-year-old. He said "suck on it" is not the same as "suck it up," and he said the penis reference is exact. He said it's the same as "suck my d---". I asked if young women ever say "suck it up," and he said, sometimes -- but I'm not sure how common that is. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 3:06
  • @aparente001 As a British person I'm not too familiar with "suck on it". I was really working from the OP's original Spanish which was translated to "If it bothers you suck on it" and doesn't sound to me like a context in which anyone would say "suck my dick". I suspect that a more accurate (though perhaps less literal) translation of "tirad de esta" would be "suck it up" rather than "suck on it". It would be interesting to have the OP's reaction. I checked the translation of "tirad" and it is, as I thought with my minimal Spanish, "pull" rather than "suck" anyway.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 10:07
  • Walen already clarified that the English back-translation he provided was a functional, not a literal, translation; and he was aiming for an expression that would match the tone; he also clarified that in the original, the reference to the penis was clear, albeit implicit. Let me know if you can't find that and I will look for it and give you a link. Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 15:26
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The formulation that the question is about is suck on it. That makes it somewhat surprising that most of those who have responded saw in it an allusion to fellatio: when the word suck is used to describe that act, it is usually used without on, or any other preposition. On the other hand, suck on is often used for very different activities: one sucks on a lollipop, a baby sucks on a dummy. What the activities that are typically described as sucking on something have in common is that they are relatively protracted. Lollipops and the confectionery that Americans call ‘hard candy’ are designed to release only a little bit of flavour at a time, so that consuming them is extended over a relatively long period (much longer that it would take to consume a differently made sweet of the same size). Because of that literal use for intentionally protracted activities, suck on it is a suitable term to use metaphorically to express something like ‘You will be stuck with this problem for a while, take your time with it, don’t expect any immediate resolution’. So used, the phrase does not carry any allusions to sexual matters, even though, needless to say, it is still highly informal.

This answer is an elaboration of the point that was originally made by Hot Licks in a couple of comments, but that hasn’t so far been engaged by any other contributors to this page.

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I think this may simply reference something that you cannot enjoy by biting into it and rather something that takes time to dissolve much like the burn that is usually referenced when suck on it or this, is used.

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    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 21:16
  • Your answer is interesting. but we prefer answers based on facts, and not opinion, Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 21:59
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The vulgar referent is strongly implied, such that proffering another object on which to suck is still a double entendre.

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