Thursday, June 21, 2012


Because the vernacular, unfortunately, tends to hold sway “snuck” is now considered acceptable in American English by too many sources, but not by me. “Snuck” was not even considered a legitimate word when I was young. Like “ain’t” and “irregardless” it was not in dictionaries of standard English, and if used at all, it was considered vulgar, illiterate slang.
Here are snippets from two online articles addressing the subject. As you will see, popular usage gains acceptance, but that doesn’t mean we have to like or accept it. 
Which is correct: snuck or sneaked?
“Snuck is used in American and Canadian English as the past tense and past participle of sneak, but it is considered non-standard, i.e. only for dialectal and informal speech and writing. The standard past tense is sneaked. 
Snuck is relatively new, an Americanism introduced in the late 19th century. ... Style guides at some of the biggest newspapers in Canada and the United States –– including the Globe and Mail (1998) and the New York Times (1999) –– ban snuck. But snuck may tiptoe into more formal writing over the years.”
Another source tells us
“From its earliest appearance in print in the late 19th century as a dialectal and probably uneducated form, the past and past participle snuck has risen to the status of standard and to approximate equality with sneaked. It is most common in the United States and Canada but has also been spotted in British and Australian English.” 
Naturally, in this era of militant, proud ignorance where “anything goes verbalizationwise,” you can say whatever you want –– you will anyway –– but I want it on record that I, personally, abhor the use of snuck, and still consider it a degenerate use of the language –– part of the “dumbing down” process to which we’ve been subjected by twin forces –– a corrupt educational system and a degraded popular culture.
If you think me a snob, you’re part of the problem. Wouldn’t you prefer to be part of the solution? Say sneaked, not snuck
~ FreeThinke


  1. You guys should get back to the real thing and standardise on British English.

  2. Hi, Jez,

    I couldn't agree more, but then I'd never say "standardise on" I'd say "We should go back to using standard British English."

    [NOTE: You may not have noticed, but I'm waging a one-man war on the use of superfluous prepositions. For instance, we now heard "advocate for" all over the place. Deplorable! You might act as an advocate for better English usage, but you can't advocate for it, you can only advocate, recommend, support, possibly espouse, or certainly favor improved standards of English usage.]

    Did we ever use standard British English here in the USA, and what might that be today, anyway? From what I see of latter day British imports on Public Television, you too are suffering from an unfortunate decline in standards.

    How do you feel about the use of "snuck" by the way? You never said.

    I eagerly await your reply

    ~ FreeThinke

  3. The only good Nazi is a grammar Nazi. :) "Snuck" doesn't jar badly for me, but I sympathise.
    Even so, I'd still happily use "snuck" informally if it improved scansion or evoked the right idiom.

    Both British and American English have drifted over the last couple of centuries. I think the awful truth is that in some cases American is more traditional than British English. (I shouldn't be admitting this to you.) Eg. "Aluminum" is more traditional than the British "Aluminium". I still prefer the latter, irrational though it be.

    Phrasal verbs in general are shoddy: not only do they cause trouble for non-native speakers, they also suck direction and purpose from writing. So you're right, I should choose a better verb than "standardise on", in fact maybe even "go back to" is not ideal (2 prepositions!) -- "revert to" carries more specific meaning, and "resume" does the job with no prepositions at all. The advantage of "standardise", which is a horrible industry "verb", is the opportunity it gave to demonstrate some of our glorious British spelling. Hope you enjoyed it.

  4. I remember an ancient second grade teacher, who had taught my parents as well, saying "ain't fell in a bucket of paint!"

    You're being too stuffy. Do you criticize William Shakespeare for his neologisms and turns of phrase? Thomas More?

    Those two men contributed greatly to our English language, producing many new words. Imagine if they had not?

  5. As I think Jez indicated, context, character, euphony and scansion ought to dictate usage, Kurt.

    Colloquialisms have always had their place, but they were understood to be colloquialisms.

    There have always been huge differences in style and syntax among various strata of society and various regions. There are probably as many varieties of English as there are counties in all the countries of the English-speaking world, but until recently there has been an agreed-upon standard of grammar and usage to which all educated people were taught to aspire.

    I hate to give too much credit to Alan Jay Lerner, who after all did little but crib from George Bernard Shaw, but his number from My Fair Lady "Why can't the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?" is a minor masterpiece of apt social commentary.

    Until certain elements, who must remain nameless, finally broke into and then virtually took over the Ivy League, if one hoped to better himself, one took considerable pains to improve not only his grammar and to expand his vocabulary, he also was expected to improve his manner of speech and enunciation.

    Noel Coward and Claude Rains, surely two actors who spoke a remarkably beautiful form of English, both reportedly started out as cockney lads -- little more than gutter snipes. They would have stayed in the gutter too if they had not gone to great lengths to learn how to speak proper English –– and rightly so.

    No one accused them of being stuffy, snobbish or affected after they'd made their brilliant transformation. The same was true for Cary Grant, who also started out life as a cockney -- and a half-Jewish one at that.

    Sidney Poitier too worked very hard to overcome his native Jamaican speech patterns. He did it on his own too by listening and experimenting, and God bless him for it.

    My own favorite example demonstrating the crying need for a proper brand of cultivated speech is to imagine Shakespeare recited with a thick Brooklyn accent or a Good Ol' Boy Hickphonic Country Drawl or an uncorrected Cockney or Aus-TRIAL-yun accent.

    Even a dolt would surely notice the unintentional comic-pathetic effect of such a performance.

    No, sir, I am neither stuffy, nor am I a snob. I am merely true to myself and to the standards with which I was carefully and lovingly raised.

    "Snuck" may be coming into its own for the reasons outlined in today's intentionally provocative little piece, but it offends my ear far more than the occasional use of "shit" or "fuck" or even "God damn you!" might if placed with wit and authentic character in a passionate, colloquial or satirical context.

    If we continue to abandon all standards as we've done in so many other areas, we soon won't be able to understand each other at all, and much worse our great treasury of English literature will become inaccessible to all but a few scholars who specialize (or as Jez would probably say "specialise") in that area.

    Certainly language changes. Chaucer today must either be read in translation or studied as a quasi-foreign tongue. It is all but unintelligible to most of us in its original Middle English -- and was even when I was lad so many centuries ago.

    You mentioned Shakespeare. He too must be at least partially translated if we are to understand many of his more obscure phrases. The same is true of the King James Bible.

    I, myself, can write in iambic pentameter with considerable facility, but I don't speak metered cadence.

    Informal English may be fine for certain intimate or social encounters, but to abandon standard English in favor of any and every old brand of unmodulated "Ignospeak" is detrimental to the advance of Civilization ("Civilisation" to you, Jez ;-).

    ~ FT

  6. Phrasal verbs may be undesirable, Jez, but nounal verbs and verbal nouns might be worse.

    I'll never forget the first time someone told me, "I'll message you later." I've never gotten over the shock.

    The practice is widespread and has made current parlance quite hideous. Any day now I expect some modern TV Cookshow Personality to say, "Plan to oven your T-Day turkey before 11:00 AM."

    How about, "I'm going to cake you for your birthday?"

    If I hear one more idiot say such things as "I'm liking his new haircut," or "I'm not a fan of his new haircut," or "I like that the kitchen has a dishwasher," or "I'm liking the fact that the house doesn't need a new roof," or "I'm cool with the fact that my lover is a lesbian," or "I'm loving the fact that my relationship is awesome," or "I'm cool with that," or "My teacher is awesome," I may explode.

    It's gotten to the point where I can't stand to watch television anymore unless I'm looking at an old pre-1965 movie or a show made before 1965.

    If you don't realize how horrible things are vebalizationwise, you may be very fortunate. Many times I ask myself, "Why did you bother to get an education? All it's done is to make you an anomaly -- a hopeless misfit -- a man out of his own time."

    Even so, I'd still rather be me than anyone else I know.

    I suppose that's a sign of reprehensible conceit. So go ahead and critique me. It don't make no never mind to me.



  7. In all of the above, the neologisms which jar the most with me are "Ignospeak" and "vebalizationwise"... was that deliberate?

  8. "... was that deliberate?

    Yes, indeed! The intent was humorous, because grotesque inventions of that sort are used all the time now, which is part of what I rail against, although frankly "Ignospeak" may be an apt onomatopoetic term that deserves to stay in the language. };-)>

    And here I must confess to having purloined "Anything Goes Verbalizationwise" from an article of the same name published many years ago by The Readers Digest. Back in the Sixties, I think

    We've been noting our linguistic decline and imminent fall here with with tongue-in-cheek humor for a very long time.

    ~ FreeThinke

  9. Excuse me, but I must interject and state that in American, the word is Standardize... ;)

    Just one question, what makes "sneak" the correct form? One could argue just as rationally that we ought to revert to sniken, snīcan, snīkja, or perhaps even sneikanan.

    Who drew the proverbial line in the sand defining the stopping point for the evolution of English as a living language? If the language was static we would all be speaking Anglo-Frisian, no? Or perhaps Jez should be writing to us in Brythonic.

    Your preference for a particular form of English is entirely arbitrary.

    Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in ġeār-dagum,
    þēod-cyninga, þrym ġefrūnon,
    hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon.

    Translation into modern English:

    Lo! We have heard of majesty of the Spear-Danes, of those nation-kings in the days of yore, and how those noblemen promoted zeal.

    On a more humorous political note, progressive subversion has apparently been going on for a long time.

    Standardized West Saxon:

    Ūre ġedæġhwāmlīcan hlāf syle ūs tō dæġ,

    From the Lord's Prayer... literal translation "Our daily loaf do sell to us today".

    Hmmm.... when it was changed from sell to give? Must be entitlement creep.

    Rétendum !

  10. I teach my students the principles found in Strunk and White's The Elements of Style and the A Beka grammar courses.

    BTW, one of the words that sends me over the edge is "awesome" to mean wonderful.

    Oh, and I abhor the use of "like," As in, "My mother is, like, beautiful."

  11. Aha! Finntann has provided us a fine of example of oppositionistic obscurification, sometimes known as compulsive [possibly addictative] antitheticalism through the interjection of quasi-erutiditic exhibitionative irrelevantification.

    I've known for quite some time, my friend, that despite vigorous protestations to the contrary, you are in fact what is politely known as a liberal.

    It is, of course, a primary characteristic of liberals to take the position that truth does not exist, nothing is sacred, nothing means anything beyond whatever significance one might care to ascribe to it according to the intellectual fashion of the moment, that stability is an emblem of Philistinism, and therefore, synonymous with stagnation, and that all things should be forever subject to cynical questioning, hostile challenges and endless revision.

    The determination to regard all standards as “arbitrary” simply because language is forever evolving is in itself arbitrary. When change occurs naturally so as to be hardly noticeable it may be acceptable. When it is abruptly forced or foisted on the language by agenda-driven zealots in service to some pet cause, it is not only undesirable, it is frankly obnoxious.

    The tendency today to exalt everything once deemed coarse, vulgar, tasteless, commonplace, ignorant and uncouth while condemning most everything that smacks of grace, refinement, excellence, subtlety and high culture is a bizarre reaction formation born of misplaced guilt exploited and exacerbated by scheming manipulators avid to harness the natural impulse of youth to rebel against authority -- parental and otherwise -- and the poverty-stricken’s eagerness to find someone to blame for their plight.

    Don’t participate in the ignorantization and patheticization of America.

    If we don’t attempt to hold the line against the ravages of Ignospeak, we are destined to become downright Dadaistic and bound to abandon language altogether in favor of a reversio to primitive grunts, groans, snorts and hand gestures.

    We are DEVOLVING. Don’t aid in accelerating the process.

    Say SNEAKED not SNUCK.


  12. Yes, AOW, I'm with you 100%. The bastardization of our language is like deplorable. We ought to get our heads together and write a book. I'm sure it would be awesome. ;-)

    May all things bright and beautiful come your way today.

    ~ FreeThinke

  13. Sometimes I feel I don't have a horse in this race since I'm much more interested in visual communication but it's pretty clear Freethinker would have been a foundation of the Academy. The Armory show would have made him gag and I cringe to think what "Sixteen Americans" did to his psych.

  14. Thank you, O Marxian Muscovy, for injecting your usual quaxotic note into the otherwise-euphonious contrasts in the expanding improvisations of our tone poem.

    If you did have a horse in this race, if race it were, which it is not, he would be sure to come in last.

    If, instead, it were your dog in a hunt (the more usual idiom in such cases), the creature would doubtless turn tail and run off with the fox in hopes of living happily ever after in a cross-species version of wedded bliss.

    ~ FreeThinke

  15. Right you are... I'm like an awesome classical liberal for sure.

    Deep down at heart, FT, you are an authoritarian.

    So I ask again... where do we arbitrarily snap this line in the sand? 1950? 1900? 1850? 1700?

    Whose dictionary and which manual of style, and more importantly...why?

    Is one form more linguistically pure than another? Shall it be New England? Mid-Atlantic? Southeastern? Midwest?

    Truth is you simply have a preference for one form over another.

    You want to know what drives me nuts? Indexes and Appendixes vs Indices and Appendices. Meh, I got over it.

    It's not about language, language is just the medium, it is about communication. If you cannot communicate effectively with the majority, it doesn't matter whether you are correct or not.

    In linquistics when a language ceases to evolve it is considered 'dead'.

    Stop being so linquicidal


  16. Well, it's close to the end of the day, (I don't know about yours, but mine began at 4:00 AM), and I'm tired, so I'll only give you the short answer for now, Finntann:


    ~ FT

  17. PS: Reread Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. I've gotten most of my ideas on language usage from the chillingly negative examples he provides of the probable form he invented of "Futurespeak" in a nightmare world where rigid conformity is ruthlessly enforced and permeates every aspect of life -- everywhere.

    I keep telling you, but you never seem to take it in that life is a paradox comprised of many paradoxical elements -- one of which is that Freedom cannot exist without discipline.

    Chaos is not freedom; it is hell.

    Have a good evening -- and thanks for stopping by. It's been great fun.

    ~ FT

  18. Forget it Freethinker, I get a dose of Newspeak every time I listen to rabies radio.

    Bit the grammar and diction are exceptional. Content is a little slack.

  19. Let's experiment with verb forms. How about ...

    Creak -- cruck, break -- breaked

    That ol' mill wheel cruck sumpin' fierce afore it done breaked up.

    Peak -- puck, slacken -- slacked, lose -- losted

    After his energies done puck he slacked his pace and losted the race.

    Reek -- ruck

    She done ruck sumpin awful after she done dump that there Chanel #5 shit between her bazooms. PEEEEE-YOOOO!

    Seek -- seeked, find -- finded

    After he done seeked it, he done finded it.

    Leak -- luck, tell -- elled

    No one would never ha' known nothin' about it, if he hadn't a luck them secrets she telled him.

    Creep -- crup, steal -- stealed

    That there thief just a crup up behinder me, an' stealed my wallet.

    go -- goed, break -- bruck

    The durned kid jest goed wild an' bruck Momma's best teacup.

    Climb -- clumb, slake -- sluck

    She clumb up the hill after she git drazzabone an' sluck her thirst at the well. Drinkt a whole durn bucket too.

    Breed -- brud

    They brud horses up in them stables all their lifes.

    Seep -- sup

    After them spring rains come up, all the water sup down into the basement, an' then everthang stinked o' damp rot and getted hitseff all milldone.

    Well why not? You can tell what them sentences means so why not say 'em and spell 'em jess like that if ya feel like it? There ain't no law again it, is there? No goll durn schoolmarm's a gonna tell me or mah keeds how to talk Anglush. No, Sireee!!! Ahm a Mercan cityzen an' Ah got mah rats. I'm free to do any goll durn thang I wants. Naow yew jess GIT, heah?

    ~ FreeThinke



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