Sneak’s Snuck Sneaked In
Posted by languageandgrammar on May 2, 2008
Flyers general manager in a quote in The Hockey News, February 26, 2008: Pittsburgh kind of snuck in the back door there.
Speaking of sneaking, maybe that’s how the word snuck got into the dictionary; I can’t think of any other reason for it to be there.
Although snuck is used fairly widely, the correct past tense and past participle of sneak is sneaked. (Pittsburgh sneaked in last year. Pittsburgh has sneaked in for the last several years.) Snuck was considered to be non-standard English when people started to mistakenly use it, which, we’re told, was in the late 19th century; instead of correcting it through education, it spread and has now become so entrenched in our language that many well-respected writers and speakers use it and think that it’s correct.
As some of you may know, the use of sub-standard or non-standard language by well-respected writers, speakers, or anyone else doesn’t change my opinion about a word being incorrect; in this case, it just means that even some famous writers haven’t been taught the correct past forms of sneak. Indeed, in some writing and speaking circles, people still do see snuck as an egregious grammar error, so if you want to be sure that you’re using standard, correct English, then your best bet is to use the correct, standard English sneaked.
This is also a case of taking an already established regular verb with establish, standard forms and re-classifying it now as both regular and irregular (which I’ve talked about before). It doesn’t make any sense to me to have a verb suddenly be both regular and irregular just to acquiesce to a lower standard of speaking rather than taking the time to educate.
Perhaps someday, we’ll have a single national usage panel that will agree on everything, but for now, I’m sticking to what I know to be standard and correct. Everyone else must decide for himself.
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