The ‘S’ Word – Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder


Nothing going on here today so here’s this:

Marcia . C Smith



My editor’s editor says he was told I can use the word only once in this column. My mom would probably frown at me if I used it at all. But arrange a Hoover vacuum company picnic, stage a Tootsie Pop convention, eavesdrop on the cell phone conversation of a 13-year-old girl or sit among a bunch of disgruntled sports fans in an arena – or a Hooters on an NFL Sunday – and you’re bound to hear it.

Kids, cover your eyes.

The word is suck, which, for the sake of my personal employment, I will now refer to it as ‘The Less Vulgar S-verb’.

In sports, it has become part of the vernacular. The Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs do it. The Clippers have done it. It has been attached in slogans, signs and chants to the names of rivals, coaches, refs and visiting sports villains. It’s acceptable. Usually.

Dictionaries commonly present their primary definition of The Less Vulgar S-verb with some mention of the "mouth" or "lips" before going on to mention secondary meanings involving "absorption" and the slang, which according to, is "to be repellent or disgusting." The Web site even demonstrates the slang usage in a sentence: Poverty (S-verbs).

It seems fairly innocuous, right?

Well, it seems that slang usage has suctioned-up some quality time of the local teams’ fan-conduct policymakers, prompting discussions about whether The Less Vulgar S-verb qualifies as lewd, obscene or vulgar enough warrant censorship.

People use it all the time in casual conversation to describe something that disgusts, disappoints, repels, stinks or, dare I say, blows. Granted, it’s not the most appropriate word for church, a job interview or dinner with the grandparents.

But The Less Vulgar S-verb has fit snugly into the sports fans’ word bank to express negative or dissenting opinion. And isn’t that expression at the very core of the modern-day sports fan?

During a Chargers’ game last season at Qualcomm Stadium, hundreds of fans at the victory over the Indianapolis Colts asked Brian Murphy, 33, of San Diego, where he got his T-shirt with "Peyton Manning (Stinks)" on its front and "So Does Eli" on its back. It was funny and done without controversy.

"I could have made a bundle selling them," he said.

But during this past regular season at Angel Stadium, at least three Halos fans were told by ushers to invert or use jackets to cover up the "Yankees (Repel)" T-shirts they had bought from street vendors in Boston.

"When did (The Less Vulgar S-verb) go back to being an obscenity," said Damian Hogan, 26, of Temecula. "It’s not like I have (curse word), (curse word) or mother (curse word) on my chest. Whatever happened to freedom of expression?"

Then before the Oct. 30 game against Vancouver, Ducks’ season-ticket holder Brian Gilmore and about a dozen of his friends were stopped at a Honda Center entrance by arena security for wearing their black, custom-printed "Ref You (The Less Vulgar S-verb)!" T-shirts. It was as if they were trying to bring in a live cheetah.

"Hold on, you can’t wear that shirt in here," Gilmore recalled being told. "They (security) said, ‘We have a new policy.’"

Gilmore and friends were protesting the officiating of the Oct. 26 defeat in which the Ducks lost, 6-3, to Toronto and were tagged for 17 penalties, including 14 minors for roughing, slashing, hooking and misconduct and one major for fighting.

"The ice was so heavily tilted toward the Maple Leafs that I made the shirt to show my frustration," said Gilmore, 34, of Costa Mesa. "I was so irritated when the security people told me I’d have to leave or change my shirt."

Gilmore said he and his friends were corralled by a dozen security personnel for more than 15 minutes. The puck had already dropped when arena representatives returned with free Ducks shirts they could be worn over their deemed-distasteful apparel.

"I couldn’t believe the T-shirt was something bad because ‘Ref You (The Less Vulgar S-verb)!" !’ has got to be the most popular chant in the arena," said Gilmore.

Incensed, Gilmore went home Friday night and blogged about his experience on his site (, attracting well more than his usual 1,200-a-day hits and getting him an interview on Bob McCown’s "Prime Time Sports" radio show on Toronto’s FAN 590.

The day the interview aired, Gilmore’s blog had a record 17,023 visitors. Feeling entrepreneurial, Gilmore, who has been unemployed since being laid off from his construction job due to an S-verb-ing economy, printed up more shirts and sold more than 30 of them online for $14.99 apiece.

Meanwhile, the Honda Center and Ducks’ front office staff discussed the situation and soon after decided that The Less Vulgar S-word wasn’t so bad after all.

"We did talk about this, and we decided that the T-shirt is not inappropriate for now," said Tim Ryan, an executive vice president and the chief operating officer of the Ducks and Honda Center.

"It’s a judgment call. We will always reserve the right to judge what is and isn’t appropriate to have in the arena. … We take into consideration the context and try to create a fun environment while showing respect for the fans."

This decision wasn’t made in, shall we say, a vacuum. More than 45 Ducks and Honda Center staff members at the weekly meeting weighed in on the topic of The Less Vulgar S-verb.

When Gilmore and more than two dozen shirt-donning Ducks fans attended Saturday night’s game against Phoenix, they didn’t have a problem.

"We just walked right in, wearing the shirts, passing the same security guards who had stopped us the night before," Gilmore said. "I felt like I stood up for the fan."

Gilmore did. Had he been stopped, that would have (stunk).

I guess it’s time to stir things up around here because it’s way to quiet and that (The Less Vulgar S-verb) s.


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2 Responses to The ‘S’ Word – Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder

  1. Joe says:

    ….and here this whole time I thought the "S" word had something to do with "S"peedo!

  2. Jade says:

    the less vulgar "uck" word 😀

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