The other day, over brunch with friends, one very accomplished lawyer in the group mentioned that his boss had corrected his pronunciation of “succinct.” My friend had been saying “suss-sinked” and his boss had insisted on “suck-sinked”. My friend recalled that he immediately changed the way he said it.
As a descriptivist and a “suss” person myself, I was shocked to hear about his prescriptive, “suck” boss. And even more shocked that my intelligent, sensitive, and perceptive friend didn’t call his boss out for being such a rigid “suck” person.
I told the story to my 19-year-old son and, free and ironic thinker that he is, he said that, no doubt, my friend’s boss what just “messing with him.” My son, the ironic thinker, is also not a lawyer—so he may have over-estimated the subtlety of humor that goes on in law offices. Then again, I’m not a lawyer either, so the jury is out on that one!
I next turned to social media to get a feel for the pulse on this word. What are Citizen Sociolinguists saying about it? First, I checked with my twitter feed. A quick poll (suck- or suss-?) revealed that everyone who cared enough to respond was a “suck” person. Really?
What about YouTube tutorials? What did they say?
The first several that pop up are all firmly “suck” videos. This is a representative (and the most viewed) example:
I was disappointed by this firmly “suck”-sided video, but happy to see that many comments on this and other similar tutorials contested this rigid prescription. And one even commented that he loved the dislikes (though, admittedly, his “love” seems tinged with irony):
Some suggested the absurdity of worrying about this:
Another comment zeroed in more specifically on the “suck” problem:
Finally, I found a “suss” demo. This video specifically labeled “suss” as an “Aussie” pronunciation. The producer of another video owned “suss” as a legitimate Aussie way of saying “succinct,” exemplifying it with a real Aussie bureaucrat’s speech. But this site also seemed to distance itself from this pronunciation, advising viewers not to “mix accents”:
Wait, is Australia part of the UK? Confusing indeed! My overall conclusion? People should pronounce “succinct” in whatever way suits their personal taste or situational needs.
And, if you ever get frustrated, or start worrying too much about whether “suck” or “suss” is “right” or “wrong,” consult this most fantastical and definitive pronunciation manual of all:
This is a sublime demonstration of the pronunciation of “PronunciationManual”. Sadly, however, this pronunciation manual has no entry for “succinct.” So, to conclude succinctly, I have an appeal: Could someone, or perhaps even the creators of The Pronunciation Manual, PLEASE make a guide for pronouncing “succinct.” This is one silly entry the world needs ASAP.
If you are still reading, please comment below! Are you a “SUCK” person or a “SUSS” person? How do you feel about “SUSS” when you hear it? Would you be willing to volunteer to make an entry for The Pronunciation Manual? Do you know any other word conundrums that need to be recorded there?