Why is everyone saying “sus” lately and what does that mean? Here’s a look at the rise of this unique piece of internet slang.
“Sus” and its origins
If you’ve been on the internet lately or have been spending time with a teen, you might have heard them call something “sus,” which is an abbreviation of “suspicious” or “suspicious.” Something or someone is “sus” if they appear dishonest or untrustworthy.
While the dominant use of “sus” is a relatively new phenomenon, the term itself, used to describe untrustworthy things, predates the internet. People have used the idiomatic phrase “suss out” to describe learning the truth from someone for decades. You’ve probably heard it from popular TV crime shows.
In fact, this is the first definition of “sus” in the online slang repository Urban Dictionary dates back to 2003. That means people have been using this term online for a while. So why has it become such a culturally significant word on the internet? It’s because of a viral video game called Between us.
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The meteoric rise of Sus
Between us is a cooperative multiplayer title that has become one of the top-grossing video games of 2020. Similar to classic party games like Werewolf and Mafia, multiple crew members of a spaceship work together to identify impostors among them and try to vote these traitors out. Those playing together often did so via video chat to maximize the experience.
One of the biggest catalysts for the game’s success has been many prominent internet personalities, public figures, and celebrities streaming the game on platforms like Youtube and Twitch. In these streams, “sus” went viral. Players often referred to others as “sus” when they seemed likely to be cheaters, and often judged based on facial expressions or contradictions with their story.
Sus became the central catchphrase of Among Us, and as interest in the game grew, so did the use of the word. There was also a meme surrounding sus where players made allegations against each other without any evidence. The term soon made its way onto the video-sharing app TikTok, where Among Us content was also beginning to catch on. It has since become one of the most popular slang terms on the internet.
Sus as slang
Also outside Between us, “sus” has developed a life of its own. People regularly refer to things as “sus” even if they have nothing to do with it Between us or video games. It has become part of the vocabulary of the average internet user, appearing in everything from tweets to Youtube videos.
If you want to describe something as “sus”, you could say “this is sus” or “you are sus”. Many people say “sus” in real life to describe something suspicious, like an odd-looking piece of meat in the fridge or a spam email promising millions of dollars in gold.
Sus people and Sus things
What counts as “sus” can be broadly divided into two things: sus-people and sus-things.
Someone is Sus if you feel they are lying or hiding part of the truth. For example, if they seem restless and nervous while talking to you, you could say, “You’re acting kind of weird.” This is also true when someone might be motivated by ulterior motives. For example, if someone asks, “Hey, can I borrow your shovel?” and you’re not sure why they want it, you could say, “That’s Sus.”
On the other hand, there is also Sus stuff. This can be a literal object, like a counterfeit product you bought, or something more abstract, like an offer that seems too good to be true. For example, if the “iPhone” you bought online is running a 5 year old version of Android, it could well be called sus.
How to use Sus
To use “sus”, substitute it whenever you would say “suspicious” or “suspicious”. Unlike Internet acronyms, which are meaningless when you’re not surfing the Internet, “sus” is generic enough that even someone with minimal Internet knowledge can understand it.
If you want to learn more about internet slang terms, check out our posts on NP, DW, and IRL. You’ll become an online natural in no time.
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