"That's sus": What it Means and What Made it Popular
Despite what stubborn grammar teachers might say, language is democratic. New words and phrases are invented and adopted into standard English on a regular basis, often as a result of repeated usage in mainstream culture. One recent example of this phenomenon is the word "sus," which has been around for many years, but more recently became popularized by the Among Us video game community.
What does it mean?
Sus (adjective, pronounced "suhss," as in "some" or "suspect")
The word sus has a long history. Today, it is most often understood as a short form of the words "suspect" and "suspicious," and it usually describes something or someone who seems suspicious, strange, or off. In the case of a person, they can look sus or act sus. You can use the word in a variety of sentences, such as:
"You're acting (kind of/a little/a bit) sus."
"He's being sus."
"Don't be so sus."
"This soup looks a little sus."
"He looks a little sus. Are you sure he's not an undercover police officer?"
Basically, if something or someone seems a little suspicious, you can say it is sus. Any one of these scenarios could be considered sus:
You open your closet and see that one of your t-shirts is missing, then see your roommate wearing one with the same design. They say they bought it. "No way. That's too sus."
Your neighbour looks through your garbage when they think no one is looking. "That's so sus."
Your children have been upstairs for the past 30 minutes and haven't made any noise. They're usually very noisy. "Hmm, that's a little sus. I should go check on them."
As you can see, many things can be considered sus.
What made it popular?
In Among Us, the word is used to make a judgment about a player whom you think is "the imposter." What does that mean? Well, in the game, you have to work with a group of other players (called crewmates) to complete different tasks on a spaceship. At the beginning of every game, you are assigned a role as a crewmate or an imposter. Usually, there is only one imposter, but it's possible to change the settings of the game so there are more.
The imposter's role is to sabotage the ship and to kill the other players before they discover him or her. The imposter can pretend to do tasks, and he or she can sneak around the ship by using the vents (or "venting," as it is called by players).
The crewmates can call a meeting at any time during the game if they think they know who the imposter is, or because they have discovered a dead body.
When a meeting is called, players can chat about whom they think the imposter is. Maybe someone actually witnessed the murder, saw someone vent, or saw someone running away from the room where the murder was committed. Or maybe someone saw another player just standing in a room doing nothing instead of doing their tasks. Why were they just standing there? Were they waiting for another player to enter so they could kill them?
A meeting ends when players vote (or choose to skip their vote) on whom to eject from the ship. A good imposter will fit in with the crewmates so that no one suspects them of being the imposter!
The game was released in 2018 but only became incredibly popular in mid-2020. In September 2020, it was reported that Among Us had over 60 million daily active players.
A Final Word
Every year, dictionary companies add new words to their databases. Only time will tell if the slang adjective "sus" will be recognized by Oxford or Merriam-Webster, or if the word will simply die out as people become bored with it. Either way, it won't stop young people from using it today because, as stated above, language is democratic. People get to decide what language is used and accepted in their communities. The grammar police who don't agree with those communities are seen as kind of sus.