Sus is a slang word that’s used on the internet as a short form for suspicious. The word became hugely popular, especially in India, when the multiplayer game Among Us, grew in popularity during the first pandemic-induced lockdown. The murder mystery game assigns players the character of either impostor or crewmate. The crewmates have to then finish all the tasks at hand, or figure out who the impostor is and kick them out of the game to win. Otherwise, the impostor will kill the crewmates and win the game. So sus became the shorthand to denote that a particular player is acting suspiciously and hence could be the impostor.

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However, the word sus did not emerge from the bedrooms of video game players or even the internet. It has a much darker past that can be traced back to the law enforcement vocabulary of 1930s England and Wales. When the police discovered any leads or found something suspicious, they would refer to it as “sussed something out”. An investigation would be referred to as “sussing out a situation or suspect”.

The second ‘s’ of ‘suss’ was dropped later on in the early to mid-1900s when a stop and search law enacted in 1800 came to be known as the sus law. This law gave British law enforcement the right to search and even arrest people who they believed might be planning to commit a crime. This law that left much to the conclusions of police officers was unsurprisingly used disproportionately on black and brown communities. It had little to no impact on the crime rates of London of the 1900s. This discrimination resulted in displeasure and tension that would eventually lead to the 1981 Brixton Riot in London where thousands of protestors clashed with the Metropolitan Police.

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Later, sus began to be used on the internet by Black users, merely to refer to any suspicious behaviour. The internet converted it into another harmless slang word. Or did it? Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have noted that sus is often used to refer to many men who are feminine. Denoting men who behave in feminine ways as sus or suspicious is an attempt to characterize heterosexual behaviour as normal. Homosexuality becomes a deviation that needs to be shamed using words like ‘sus’. As users, we need to inform ourselves about the origin of words as well as their usage. Internet slang is a self-governing space, we as a collective have the responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t create prejudices against disadvantaged groups. We as a collective need to prevent internet slang from crossing a line.

Like this article? Click here to read our article on other inappropriate slang words.

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Pro-Tip: Your children will undoubtedly be using ‘sus’ very frequently. It’s a very popular slang word. You can share this article with them or talk about its contents. See how they react and let us know in the comments below!