Thursday, September 15, 2011


I have been trying to get a book published under the title "You Suck: enduring, learning from, and responding to your critics".  But I can't get it passed the world of christian publishing.  Everyone I pitched it to loves the concept, and the book title is tentatively in the contract, but I can't get it to go- because of one thing: the word "Suck".

I have taught seminars at both the National Youth Workers Convention and the Simply Youth Ministry Conference under the above title and gotten rave reviews from those who came and found the content to be honest, authentic, and helpful.  As a youth pastor for the last 17 years, I've had some crazy things said to me from both students and adults and experienced criticism at levels that at times make you just want to quit and become an arborist- cuz plants don't talk back.  I wrote an article in this months Group Magazine entitled, "You Suck"- but they edited it to say "You Stink"- I found this out by reading the article.   I had a friend of mine get told by the publisher that he had to remove the word "suck" from the inside of his book- like in a single sentence.   I recently wrote a magazine article that I wanted titled "I suck at ______ " (I'll leave the rest blank to avoid giving away the article) for a different magazine.  They told me they also understood why I titled it that but that it would be offensive to some and cause those same people to not read it or to pass judgment on it for it's shock factor.  I've been told "Christian Bookstores" won't stock a book with "suck" in the title and that evidently, a lot of people still buy books in "Christian Bookstores".  That thought blew my mind, but ok.  My local christian bookstore I think is owned by whoever makes trinkets of all things Max Lucado, Thomas Kinkade paintings, and testamint gum- but that's a different blog post.


Who out there are the rhetoric police on the word "Suck"?  Please call yourself out so we can actually talk.

Let me tell you why you should stop banning the word suck.

SOME THINGS SUCK.   Vacuums suck.  Everyone sucks on straws.  Suck is a legitimate verb.

WORDS CHANGE IN MEANING.  Ok... even if there ever was a generation that thought the word meant a sexual act, no real walking talking human being today does.  Interview 1000 people at the mall and ask them what they think of when they hear the word "suck".  My money is on they don't think porn.  If you want proof that meaning changes over time, here it is.  For some reason which I cannot explain, people felt it ok to at one time shorten Richard to a name that has nothing to do with Richard at all really.  I actually cannot write that word on this blog.  Why?  Because clearly, words must change in meaning.  Nobody names their kid this anymore.  And no student or adult I know of thinks that the word "suck" has anything to do with the porn industry.  They however do think that guys first name does.

SOMETIMES LIFE FLAT OUT SUCKS.  Please tell me, what word do you describe the total loss of your home with?  What do you say to someone when their car is totaled?  What do you call it when a student is diagnosed with cancer?  Maybe you call it tragedy or horrible.  Most people I know say, "well that just sucks" or "this sucks".

In the end, I don't care if you tell your kids to say sucks or don't.  Honestly, we did not teach our 8 year olds to use it in their vocabulary either.  But the book in question is not written for 8 year olds.  I'm writing a book for adults who know that sometimes, life sucks and know full well what it's like to be told "You Suck". When they are, they also know that no one is speaking of your sexual experiences, but rather your inability to meet their approval.

So there you go.  When life hands you lemons, go ahead and call it out.  This sucks.  Then go make lemonade and suck it down through a straw in protest.


Anonymous,  10:37 PM  

Sorry Brian, but you do know someone well who grew up with the word suck being vulgar if not pornographic. It was almost always used in the same sentence with the odd nickname for Richard. My first reaction to the word sometimes evokes the vulgar reaction until I think it through in context. It's your generation and younger that uses it to mean "stink". Dad

brian c. berry 10:50 PM  

no big deal dad. you and my editor can bond over a cup of coffee in the hopes I'll come to my senses soon.

marko 2:13 PM  

the post was good, but the comments are priceless!

Mr. Gruber 11:23 AM  

Is there a difference when using the word in reference to inanimate objects/life situations vs. person? I do get bothered when the word is used against someone, as in "you suck." Thoughts?

brian c. berry 10:27 PM  

Well I don't know if there's a universal difference, but I think there's a difference. I agree with you and use the term "suck" exclusively of situations and objects. I don't use it in the framework I put the title of the article in, but I do think that the phrase "you suck" accurately describes how people feel when criticism cuts. So while I try to never say "you suck" to anyone, I think it is the best title for the book and article this post refers to.

LPattison 8:33 AM  

I don't really have an issue with the word suck. Me being 28, i grew up with it describing how i felt about things. If something sucked, it was bad and i didn't like doing it. So i don't have an issue using it, but i do think having it in a book title isn't probably the best idea. Most people read a title, or even part of a title and thats it. (unfortuntaly) But they do. But it also depends on who your trying to sell your book too. If its to younger aged youth pastors/directors, I don't think they would have an issue, but if your trying to sell it to the older crowd (as your dad said) then they will have an issue. I read your article in the group magazine, and I REALLY related to it. It was as if God put it in my hands for that very article. I would love for it to say YOU SUCK. cause sometimes I do feel that way. For your book do what you feel is right, either way, i'll be buying it. lol...


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