Sneaked Versus Snuck & Past Tense Versus Past Participle

Driving back from the airport this weekend after our vacation, I put on an audio CD for the kids, one of the Horrid Henry stories. In part of the story, he was said to have “sneaked” into a room. Sneaked? Surely he “snuck” into the room, I thought. But then I lost confidence. Have I been saying “snuck” all these years by mistake?

To reassure myself, I quickly tried to think of other irregular verbs ending in -eak where I would do this. I couldn’t think of any. Instead, I thought of examples where I don’t do this. For example, I wouldn’t say:

  • cruck rather than creaked
  • fruck rather than freaked
  • wruck rather than wreaked

So how on earth did I come to believe that it was snuck rather than sneaked? AskOxford told me that I wasn’t alone and that it was an American form that has grown popular. Common Errors In English agreed but warned I’d be safer sticking with “sneaked.”

Random House’s The Mavens’ Word Of The Day left me most reassured about snuck. It wrote comprehensively about how usage had changed, how it is indeed unusual as a -eak verb to have a -uck form and why no one should feel “snuck” is non-standard for American English

Interestedly, Francesca Simon — who writes the Horrid Henry books — is an American who grew up in California (like me) who lives in the UK (like me). So why didn’t she use “snuck” rather than “sneaked?” No idea, but since her British books use British spellings, I’m guessing “sneaked” won out over here.

While discovering why I use “snuck,” I also learned it was both a past tense and past participle for sneak. And what was the difference between “past tense” and “past participle” again?

Yeah, here I am an English major asking about this. Cut me some slack. English majors don’t take lessons in grammar. You know how we relearn grammatical forms we’ve long forgotten since elementary school? We study a foreign language! That’s why I have on my shelf my trusty copy of English Grammar For Students Of German.

Rather than reach for that, however, I first did a little web searching. A lot of what I found explained how a past participle was formed but not what it was in terms of when you use it.

In other words, plenty of pages told me that a past participle is usually a verb with -ed added as a suffix, except for irregular verbs. Great, but what’s the difference between that and the past tense in terms of usage, not in terms of how you make the verb form?

OK, this page had a good definition of past tense: an action that was both started and finished in the past. The verb form to show this usually ends in -ed, so:

  • The race ended.
  • The car stalled.

What about the past participle? That same page indirectly explains this is a verb form usually ending in -ed and with a helper or auxiliary verb that is used to represent the various perfect tenses, such as:

  • Present Perfect Tense: An action that happened in the past at an indefinite time or began in the past and continues into the present.
    • The race has ended.
  • Past Perfect Tense: An action that happened in the past before another past action.
    • The race had ended, and the awards were given out.
  • Future Perfect Tense: An action in the future that will happen before another future action.
    • The race will have ended before the awards will be given out.

So to bring it back to sneak, if you consider it to be a regular verb, you use -ed as the suffix for the past tense and the -ed suffix with a helper verb to make the past participle form used for the perfect tenses. Examples show it better:

  • He sneaked into the room. (past tense)
  • He has sneaked into the room. (present perfect tense)
  • He had sneaked into the room, and then he was caught. (past perfect tense)
  • He will have sneaked into the room, before stealing the money. (present perfect tense)

If you are like me and prefer to treat sneaked as a irregular verb, then forget that -ed suffix and use snuck:

  • He snuck into the room. (past tense)
  • He has snuck into the room. (present perfect tense)
  • He had snuck into the room, and then he was caught. (past perfect tense)
  • He will have snuck into the room, before stealing the money. (present perfect tense)

Isn’t grammar fun? No doubt, if I’ve got it wrong, folks will leave comments below.

Postscript:
From below, a video of Conan O’Brien smacking Jennifer Garner down as she tries to correct him from saying snuck:

Postscript 2: Grammar Girl has a video up (sorry, it doesn’t allow embedding) that says it’s sneaked over snuck, if you want to be proper.


Comments

  1. says

    AP style guide says…sneaked is “preferred as past tense of sneak. Do not use the colloquial snuck.” American? British? Don’t know. I’m just sticking with AP.

  2. .steph. says

    Thank you so much for the info and explanation – I was completely stuck on this with a paper I’m writing. I finally get it!!

  3. PJohn says

    One of my favorite rants – thanks for posting. I think there should be a revision of the declension, to wit: “sneak, snack, snuck” … ho-ho.

  4. says

    My ears and brain are annoyed every time I hear “snuck”. Have you thought about a word much like it with only one letter change? It is also a word I definitely abhor. Sneaked sounds right to me, but then I am not a native Californian and certainly not a Southern Californian. A native Califronian told me to just”get over it”. I don’t think I will. I have lived in california for nearly 30 years, and I hope to retain my English grammar sensibilities.

  5. jeff says

    “He will have sneaked into the room, before stealing the money. (present perfect tense)”
    I believe this should read…
    “He will have sneaked into the room, before stealing the money. (future perfect tense)”

  6. bradvines says

    In case you’re interested, you say above, “Past Perfect Tense: An action that happened in the past before another past action”, and that’s RIGHT.
    “The race had ended, and the awards were given out”, is WRONG. Right is, “The race ended and the awards were given out”.
    “Call me a taxi”. “O.K., you’re a taxi.” The past perfect doesn’t work that way. You can’t make it work by putting ‘had’ in front of a past tense verb.
    Let me know if you don’t know why I said what I said.

  7. THE DARK MOLE says

    I don’t talk so good myself sometimes.

    Somebody, somewhere, sometime, will get a kick out of that.

  8. THE DARK MOLE says

    …and another thing: you wrote “…if I’ve got it wrong…”. You are saying then (without the contraction) “…if I have got it wrong…”. I believe the preferred way should be “if I have it wrong”, or even could be “if I got it wrong” OR “if I have GOTTEN it wrong”. Just like “you’ve got mail”. You HAVE mail, you don’t HAVE GOT mail.

    And that’s MY little abhor-ation.

  9. Christin says

    That is the thing I was taught in grade school it was snuck not sneaked. Is that not wierd! I just saw sneaked on one of my kids TV shows and thought it was wrong and googled it to find out I am the one that was wrong. I should have known better being proficient in two foreign languages that it did not make any sense my way! I guess you learn something new everyday!

  10. Robyn says

    I realize snuck does not follow the rules of the english language, but since when is there not an exception to nearly every rule in the english language. I like snuck. :)

  11. Bruce says

    I was born and raised in New Zealand, where we apparently speak a version of British English…but I first notice this strange word “sneaked” sometime last year. Over here, it’s been “snuck” ever since I remember having snuck into my parents room and stolen 50cents from the jar for an ice-cream when I was 8.

  12. Nancy says

    To .steph. – don’t you mean ‘sticked’? ;)

    English is losing its history in German, Latin and Greek. Apart from ‘sneaked’, I have also witnessed the horrifying adoption of ‘fishes’.

  13. Gregory says

    To Nancy -

    I believe that “fishes” refers to multiple species of fish together. You use the plural “fish” for multiple ones of the same species. I could be wrong though!

  14. Ellen Leahy says

    Backed to sneak v. snuck

    This English major and teacher educator says the word is sneaked. Moreover, aspiring teachers should save their money by not purchasing Donna Huggins’ “Exam Cram Praxis I” 2005 guide for the teacher examination. In question two of the Writing Exam section where the object is finding an adverb, the author gives future teachers this sentence: “I watched the cat as she quietly snuck up behind the bird.” Is teacher education in trouble when those who market gatekeeper exams to students push this level of ineptitude? Needless to say, I quit reading their defective product at question two.

  15. says

    Thank you for this! I’m a snuck person myself, but was reading The Sea of Monsters, which uses both “sneaked” & “leaped.” After multiple uses of both words (instead of snuck or lept), I just had to look it up. Thank you for making it easy. Not that it is easy: the Englidh language is messed up & as long as a work is consistent, we’re all right.

  16. Ariana says

    Thanks for writing this- it was a big help. I’ve always heard ‘snuck’ growing up, and ‘sneaked’ sounds a bit silly to me, somewhat awkward in a sentence, but if it’s the right way, then I’ll use it. Thanks again!

  17. Dustin says

    Gregory is correct. I believe this is also the case for other irregular plural animal words, such as deer.

  18. keith j boyle says

    The reason that “snuck” has become acceptable is because of the great number of the masses using the word incorrectly. Without sounding like the proverbial old fart, there was a time that these items were corrected and learned. Now it seems that the majority rules when it comes to language, whether it is proper or not. “Sneak” is a regular verb, requiring an -ed ending for both the past and the past participle. The nuns, brothers and Jesuit priests that educated me made sure I was aware of this–and other anomalies.

  19. Mona says

    Well, NPR evidently considers “snuck” okay, because I have heard two different news announcers report that the Honduran President “snuck” back into the Brazilian Embassy in his country. He did not evade security or elude pursuers or outwit adversaries, no, he just plain snuck back. What larks.

    9/23/09

  20. Marc says

    Snuck versus sneaked. Who cares? The reality of language is that it evolves constantly. What was grammatically correct 200 years ago is completely different today. The fact that some “experts” of today claim snuck is incorrect does not make it incorrect. Language never was and never will be controllable by the few who study it.

  21. John Dalvaccio says

    “The fact that some “experts” of today claim snuck is incorrect does not make it incorrect.”
    Nor does saying the opposite make it correct. Speaking and writing are treated differently for the reason that it would be difficult for us to understand the meanings of texts if written language just blindly followed spoken/slang shifts.
    It is the standardized, albeit arbitrary, rules of language that determine whether sneaked or snuck is the correct usage, the former being the standard and therefore correct in terms of written language. One need not be an “expert” to claim that with authority.
    You can say what you want, and if others think and speak the same way, they’ll understand you. Your papers may not get published, but who cares, right?

  22. Marc says

    The papers that make the big money get published using snuck. Regardless of sneaked being “correct” grammatically is of no consequence to giant media. The best seller list authors use spoken language rather than “proper english”, as do newspaper writers and mass media. My claim was that language evolves and that is more important than the rules of today. I have pet peeves in language myself, including “these ones,” “those ones,” and announcers using “crash” instead of accident or wreck. Yet nothing will not stop their misuse nor freeze the language into what is considered “proper” by today’s experts.

  23. Marc says

    I also can not stand double negatives. My last sentence was supposed to be: “Yet nothing will stop their misuse nor freeze the language into what is considered “proper” by today’s experts.”

  24. Brian says

    AHHHHHH! All of you prescriptivists need to open your eyes! American English is NOT British English and just because a grammar book says something does not make it a law. It shows examples of the langauge at any given point in time. A lot of people say snuck, and whether or not you shudder when you hear it, it is not wrong and you need to get over it. Language is always changing and those grammar books that you get your information from won’t even be accurate 100 years from now. Deal with it.

  25. says

    Great to have all the info. I wrote a poem using my Californian “Snuck” and kept getting the dang red line from spell check! I finally “ignored” it but started freaking out last night that I might be wrong. Sneaked sounds TERRIBLE to me, and does not fit the rythmn of my poem, so I am definitely sticking with SNUCK!!! ^_^

  26. USAP8riot says

    Ellen Leahy,
    I’m not an expert in use of English or anything, but shouldn’t it be “Is teacher education in trouble when they who market gatekeeper exams to students push this level of ineptitude?” instead of “Is teacher education in trouble when those who market gatekeeper exams to students push this level of ineptitude?” I was always taught that the way to tell the difference was to drop the extraneous portion of the sentence, reducing it to “Is teacher education in trouble when they push this level of ineptitude?” Was I miseducated? Again, not trying to seem pedantic, just curious. Thanks!

  27. Kit says

    I believe that everyone should use “snuck.” Why? “Sneaked” sounds a lot like “squeaked” which is not what you want to be doing when you’re sneaking around. In my opinion, “snuck” sounds softer and sneakier (perhaps why it caught on in the first place?) and generally more like what the word means. I’ve always felt that words should sound similar to what they mean, if at all possible.

    (Of course, if you’re writing a poem about a person who sneaked into the room, but the door squeaked, you might have to go with “sneaked.” It’s good to have choices. It’s what makes English great! Also it’s what makes English terrible to non-native speakers. Oh well.)

  28. Trish says

    I have always said sneaked. What is bizarre about this is that everyone in my Appalachian area says snuck, which sounds so strange to me. Maybe this is because my mom always said sneaked. I don’t understand why you would make an irregular verb out of a regular verb if you don’t need to. I understand that the English language is always changing, but I don’t agree with changing the English language just because everyone starts saying something out of ignorance. If we are going to change the English language, then it should be changing the ridiculous rules like “capitalize Mother if it is in place of someone’s name but not if it has a possessive pronoun in front of it.”

  29. says

    To Paul. . . . . . How gross and innapropriate. (gags a bit)

    I was never good in school but my teacher told me it was sneaked. . . I was the only one who said that. So growing up people would laugh leaving me never knowing which one it was. Thanks to this site I now know that those people who laughed at me were wrong. That makes me feel so happy to know that!

  30. says

    Oh and why are you all getting off the track of ‘sneaked’ and ‘snuck’ ? really? you’re ALL crazy escpecially you Paul (my biggest fan club member) I am really a Jonas Brother. . . . . . . Joe actually. oh GOTTA go got a Hot chick in the house!

  31. GAZ8 says

    First, to those who dig their heels in insisting that (written) language is immutable, read Steven Pinker’s column from the NYT following Obama’s swearing in snafu:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/opinion/22pinker.html

    Note also that “snuck” has been used since the 19th c. and, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, “in the last few decades its use has spread, particularly in the US, where it is now generally regarded as a standard alternative to ‘sneaked.’” (Admittedly, the following line states, “In formal contexts, however, ‘sneaked’ remains the preferred form.” Still, this statement seems to me reminiscent of the matter of splitting infinitives, where conventional usage will overrule (arbitrary) formal conventions.)

    Incidentally, many of you complaining about how grating “snuck” sounds to you make your own share of grammatical and syntactical errors.

  32. KevinD says

    In the end we just continually move closer and closer to Newspeak. Sneaked. Leaped. Pant. Why buy a pant from the store when your dog seems full of them? But I’m sure you’ll find them on sale everywhere.

  33. wehrlybird says

    I’m delighted at your exploration of this in your blog – I hope many more read it and that I no longer have to hear those around me saying “snuck” (audible cringe/shudder.) In the meantime, I plan to use your made up past tense of freak: “fruck” with those using “snuck” – I love it! Perhaps future generations of grammar nazis like me will have me (well, and you) to blame for “fruck” catching on!

    Really, I don’t mind so much when my blue-collar co-workers use imperfect English. I do expect teachers, education administrators, journalists (including TV’s talking heads) to properly use the medium of their careers, living language or no.

  34. says

    Yes, if you consider freak to be an irregular verb, I suppose you can go with fruck. Most people wouldn’t. I think that’s clear in that we don’t have an on-going debate over freaked/fruck with conflicting and confusing dictionary definitions.

    We do have that with sneaked versus snuck, which tells me there isn’t a commonly accepted correct usage. So when you’re expecting those teachers, educators and journalists to properly use language, they are, even if they say snuck.

  35. wehrlybird says

    Oops – I forgot to mention my favorite tool for verb conjugation – the song in the Grinch cartoon movie! Remember when the song goes: The three words that best describe you, are, and I quote: “Stink. Stank. Stunk.” If I’m confused about a verb and can’t get to the dictionary or internet, the soothing voice of Tony the Tiger!

    Also, like Trish from Appalachia, I was raised (though in an Indiana backwater) by a mother who used proper English. I say we are NOT stuck with snuck! Fight back with knowledge, rather than turn your back on it!

  36. wehrlybird says

    Whew, Danny, you clearly missed the playful nature of my posting. My diabolical plan is to turn freaked/fruck into just such a debate. What’s good for the snuck is good for the fruck, with apologies to both goose and gander for that.

  37. wehrlybird says

    That’s simply part of my diabolical masterplan! Bwa-ha-ha… (My friends and I, by the way, would identify that as a “fallopian slip” rather than, you know, the established name.)

    Though I was being playful, I am seriously frustrated with the condition of our language, for most of us the only one we have. While I’m somewhat less than appalled by journalists’ (and other educated folks’) lack of knowledge of proper English, I’m sad that my own two sons are among them! I spoke well at home, read to them often, earned my BA while they were little kids, and raised them with the expectation that they would earn higher educations – which they did… But through all of that, what happened to their grammar??? Did they learn “snuck” and develop a lack of understanding of when to use “lie” versus “lay” at elementary school through college? Did the bad grammar of their friends supercede all the efforts of mother and professional educators? Was my decision NOT to follow in my mother’s footsteps (those of a grammar nazi, eternally correcting the errors of small children) wrong-headed? It seems that my expectation that people completing a higher education (especially in fields such as journalism, English, communication, etc.) should come out with a better rather than worse understanding of their native tongue! I’m all for relaxed standards in casual conversation in real and literary life, but formal and professional situations demand use of proper English.

    And, of course, everyone deserves latitude for long, tiring days, especially when they’re creating a forum on their own time for people like me, who sometimes act like jerks. I appreciate the your responses. But I suspect I will never subscribe to the “oh, well” attitude of several posters. Thanks for the site, and best wishes with all your present and future aspirations (which, after taking a belated first trip around the rest of this page, I see are both accomplished and many! Question: Are you British and/or in England?

  38. Jacky Beanstalk says

    Read a poem once that went like this: “I dreamed a dream”
    Should it be “I dreamt a dream?”

  39. says

    Thank you. This was very useful for solving my problem. Dragged and drug is the other one that usually gets me .

  40. Heidi says

    I am more prone to use the “snuck” rather than the “sneaked” version!!! …somehow it just sounds better… and I’m one who hates using the Americanised versions of words (ie theatre rather than theater). Go figure! I better start retraining myself! …not that I do much sneaking around!

  41. says

    Seriously been thinking about this a lot lately, it has been coming up in books as “sneaked” but I always pronounce as “snunk”. Glad to know it is okay to do so!! :)

  42. Englishman says

    The English language is a Joy to hear, it’s rules are at once simple and complex. English is both beautiful and vulgar, the former has been tested by time, the latter by the mouths of americans

    sneaked , not snuck, (you don’t say puck instead of peeked do you!!?)
    dragged, not drug
    twice, not two times

    P.S. you may be totting up my mistakes while you are reading this, if so i do not care, i do not profess to being a scholar, nevertheless, i am English and detest your bastardisation of “our” spoken word.

  43. Brian says

    Dear Englishman,

    We don’t speak British English…we speak American English. I could sit here and list irregular verbs that Brits use and compare them to regular forms…but that’s just pointless. I could actually hear you snobbery as I was reading your arrogant comment… I have two points to make. Although not ALL americans say sneaked, I actually know some British people who do say snuck. Moreover, lets point out a little fact here – 2/3 of native English speakers are American. If it weren’t for us developing our own dialects of English, you would have been forced to master AT LEAST one foreign language (and I’m assuming you are monolingual according to your perspective on language) while you were in school, because English wouldn’t be any more important than let’s say German. So, you’re welcome. Also, if you want to hear some really bastardiZed English, go to London and have a conversation with one of your chavs…

  44. says

    Englishman, you mean “its rules are at once simple and complex,” not “it’s rules are at once simple and complex.”

    “Its” is the possessive form of the neuter pronoun. You use it to indicate ownership by a neuter subject, just as you use his to indicate possession by a male subject and hers to indicate possession by a female subject.

    “It’s” is a contraction of the words “it is,” where the apostrophe indicates the missing space between the words and the letter I.

    When in doubt, always substitute the word “his” or “hers” in place of either “it’s” or “its” to know if you’re using things correctly. In what you wrote, could you have said:

    “his rules are at once simple…”

    Yes, you could. So its should have been the word you used.

    As for the bastardization of of “your” spoken word, English is descended from Germanic roots, with a healthy dose of Latin and French mixed in. One of the strengths of the language has been how it adopts and accepts words from many sources.

  45. Trish says

    Dear Englishman and Danny,
    You are really uptight, are you not? This is supposed to be a discussion forum–lighten up.
    Everyone,
    I know that the English language is always changing, but should it change because we are ignorant of the rules of grammar? Or should it change because we make a conscious decision to change it? Snuck started as slang (I am convinced in my region…I could be wrong though), and now we see it in dictionaries. This irritates me. What are we going to see in dictionaries five years from now as acceptable grammar because people do not know the rules and do not want to learn them? Pretty soon we will see this in the dictionary (Heaven forbid):
    lay -verb 1. what you do when you take a nap: Lay down and take ya a nap maw. laid: I laid down cuz I felt allful. lays: She jest lays around all day doin nuthin.
    Okay, maybe the above example is a little exaggerated. I suggest we consciously change some capitalization rules and a few spelling rules
    (but not because people are too lazy to learn them).
    xxx ooo
    T

  46. says

    Trish, there are any number of English words that were originally “incorrect” which, because they’ve been used over time, are “correct” today.

    One good example could be the many words in American English that end in -er (such as theater) versus British English (theatre) or words like color versus colour. Which is “correct?” It all depends on your point of view. And even in American English, both theater and theatre are correct spellings.

    I agree. I think people should use commonly accepted word forms and grammar in general and not just ignore the “rules.” But neither am I panicked if some word forms change over time. That’s always the case.

  47. Joe says

    Sneaked might be technically correct, but it doesnt sound right. Which is probably how “snuck” came to be. It sounds out of place and childish. Maybe we shouldnt get all stuck up in the technical side of things, because in the real world unique style and unique speaking always wins over cookie cutter language.

  48. Trish says

    It does not sound right because you are used to hearing it said the wrong way. Does “I am going to lie down and take a nap” sound right? What about “She has lain in bed all day”? Most people say “She has laid in bed all day” because they never paid attention in English class and they live in a region where everyone says “has laid” instead of has lain.
    I am definitely FOR changing some things in our language, but I am NOT for “dumbing it down.” I swear that Ray Bradbury’s predictions, about how technology makes people stupid, will come true–some already have come true (from Fahrenheit 451). It scares me.
    P.S. I feel cranky today…sorry.

  49. Greg says

    IN RESPONSE TO DARK MOLE’s “I’VE GOT” RANT

    Actually, it is correct to say “I’ve got mail.” I used to yell at my British co-teachers all the time about it, but if you think about it in the sense of the perfect tense, it is correct. It’s referencing a past occurrence, without a time reference, and with a present consequence. Therefore, I received mail at some ambiguous point in the past and it is of present relevance.

    So, “I’ve got it wrong” can work if referencing a past thought or action, with no specified time, relating to a present situation. This is in contrast to “I got it wrong yesterday…” or something along those lines.

  50. Greg says

    Also, I hate hearing the word “snuck.” It’s almost as bad as when someone says “Did you eat yet?” Think about that one pseudo-grammarians.

  51. runner says

    Very interesting. I am making a lesson plan right now and I realized that I have always said snuck. it is great to know why I am wrong.

  52. CiaraDell says

    Thanks a lot for this (: ‘Twas pretty helpful. I think I’d like to go for snuck. But this spell check is now saying it’s wrong… -.-

  53. says

    egads! i was googling snuck for a poem i wrote and your explanation was at the top of the search. small world? or just because you’re famous? :) cheers!!!!

  54. says

    That always cracks me up, when someone who knows me stumbles onto a post for something really unrelated to what I normally write about! The other day, one of my kids did :)

  55. says

    That was a fantastic string of comments to peruse. I’d have to say that it was better than the article. I came here wondering which was the correct form of “sneaked.” I’m leaving with the opinion that it is purely a stylistic decision. Consider Jabberwocky, for example. It’s beautiful, and it barely uses real words. Or perhaps, consider anything that Poe, Twain, or Vonnegut wrote. None seemed to be overly concerned with doing things in a proper manner. Colloquialism and vernacular are great ways to capture the essence of an era. When written, at this point, I’d have to say both are correct and that it purely depends on the context the author intends to convey. Spoken? The same could be true or perhaps the speaker is just lazy. Who could blame them for that? Cringe in your mind if you want, but don’t let yourself miss the point just because you were too concerned with how the point was presented.

    Certainly, grammatical errors like “your” in place of “you’re” are more worthy of denigration than inconsequential ones like the “sneaked” vs “snuck” debate. “Sneaked” and “snuck” are ultimately intended to mean the same thing. “Your” and “you’re” are, without question, not meant to. “…that was hard to admit to myself… and not just because it ended with a preposition.” – Yorick Brown in Y: The Last Man.

    Sorry to bring up a months-old thread. Not sorry to drop the subjects from many of my sentences. It’s just how I speak, as I find that implication often makes language more evocative. Take that for what you will.

  56. says

    As a native Washingtonian I’ve always said snuck not sneaked (sounds so weird to me). As I was writing a post for my blog, I couldn’t understand why Google Chrome’s spell check didn’t want to accept snuck as a valid spelling. Thanks for the post, very informative. I guess I will just have use the add dictionary function so I can continue with misspelling of British English words. As a side note, I find the differences in language very interesting. I’m currently living in Cusco Peru and teaching English at a local university. The thing is, that we teach British English… not American. I’m always coming across the differences.

  57. Anna says

    I, personally, am horrified by the use of the word “snuck”. I don’t consider it a valid word – and I was born in the US.

  58. Son of a Harvard grad says

    What a fascinating article and thread of comments. I hope that anyone that reads this will take away with them the fact that English (British or otherwise) is always changing. Yes, always.

    With those changes come people who need for the changes to stop or the world will end. Also with these changes come people demanding the other people stop being so obstinate or the world will end. Oddly enough, the only thing they seem to agree on is that the world will end. The funniest part is that each side can easily use the same set of rules to prove their argument.

    My stance, having majored in English, and having been raised by a father who majored in English, is probably not what a lot of people want to read… but I’ll write it anyways (and I’ll probably make lots of mistakes because my editor isn’t here at the moment, so don’t bother correcting my English… you probably won’t correct it correctly anyway).

    Remember that language is meant to be an effective tool of communication. If you are communicating effectively, then the “rules” go out the window. As Winston Churchill (supposedly) once said, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” Rules in English are much better used as suggestions as opposed to steadfast commandments.

    We are on our own as far as figuring out English. English doesn’t have an academy like French that devotes its time to keeping the language safe… or is that stagnant? One of the great things about English is that it has always been so accepting when it comes to new words. Sure, it makes English horribly difficult to learn. So what? Good things come from hard work. The thing is that the richness of the English language would not exist if not for all the melding and mutating that has taken place.

    So before you begin a rant about the people destroying the language, be sure that you aren’t one of those people… no… assume that you ARE one of those people, and then just stop yourself. We are all still learning English, from the Harvard grad to the knucklehead, and (with any luck) there will never be nothing left to learn.

  59. says

    I think it’s interesting that snuck always sounded right but when I went to write it then it looked silly.

  60. says

    Sneaked and snuck are both fully standard in U.S. English, though snuck is avoided in some formal contexts. Sneaked is generally preferred in British English, but there is dialectal variation.

    What’s unusual about the rise of snuck over sneaked — aside from its rapidity — is that snuck is an irregular, strong form. There was a minor disagreement recently between The Paris Review and The Awl over snuck‘s acceptability, which prompted me to investigate both sides’ arguments; my (fairly detailed) blog post is here, if anyone cares to read it.

  61. says

    The purpose of language is to communicate. It evolves. It’s still not ‘proper’ to say/write such sentences as, “He did not know who he was speaking to.” It should be, “He did not know to whom he was speaking.” But did you understand the point of the former sentence?

    I’m more irked by the misuse of phrases such as, “the proof is in the pudding.” The original saying is, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” which means that an assumption is based on experience. Otherwise, there’s an allusion to an omniscient bowl of pudding somewhere, deciding what is the truth. But everyone still knows what you mean when you use the former example.

    Oh, and I believe I may have just committed a couple of faux pas (pases?) by beginning my sentence with a coordinating conjunction. At least, that’s what my teachers told me. And I should have written, “everyone still knows what *one means*…” But y’all knew what I meant, right?

    Marc, as for use of the word “crash”, people are increasingly preferring not to use “accident” because, 99 times out of 100, someone is at fault. Accidents rarely happen on their own. But I agree that I’d prefer the word, “wreck”.

    My final example of why people need to chill: it is still considered slang to use the word “alright” instead of the words “all right”. Yet James Joyce and Gertrude Stein are but two well-known examples of great authors to use it as a contraction. It is increasingly becoming acceptable and will eventually make its way into a dictionary, not listed as slang. So, if Merriam Webster declares that “snuck” is proper, then you’ll get over your obsession with propriety?

  62. Trish says

    Marcello,
    You jest learned me sumpin I didnt already no. You learned us all sumpin knew.
    (Are the above sentences acceptable? You understand them, do you
    not?)
    The purpose of language is to communicate. However, we have a beautiful language and it is not acceptable to “dumb it down” like we do everything else just because people are too lazy to learn grammar (unless it is acceptable for our future generations to say their teachers “learned me sumpin good” in school).
    “Understanding” what someone says is not the issue; thus, it is not a valid argument.

  63. says

    I’m sorry, Trish. I should have written that the purpose of language is to communicate effectively. Since I had to reread your sentence a couple of times, you weren’t being effective. If I read more than a few sentences like that, I’d get frustrated and give up. Therefore, you would have failed to effectively communicate your point to me.

    But, whether or not I agree that “snuck” is the past tense of “sneak,” that one word in an otherwise coherent sentence–especially given that there is much debate as to whether or not the word is acceptable–would not keep the writer/speaker from being understood.

    It’s not the same as using “loose” when you mean “lose” (which I see OFTEN). That would confuse the reader, prompting one to wonder if the writer meant “loosen” or “lose.”

    Do you use “to whom” as in my example above every time it would be applicable? If so, kudos, but many people think that those who speak perfect English are putting on airs.

  64. says

    Trish, my wife is British. She adds U to words like “colour” and uses S in place of Z for words like “realise.” I don’t, because American English has changed from British English. Does that mean American English was dumbed down?

    In British English, it’s common to refer to a corporation in the plural: “BP believe they are doing all that can be done.” In American English, we typically use the singular: “BP believes it is doing all that can be done.” Which is the dumbed down version?

    We’re not using some contractions and other word forms from 100 years ago, much less 500 years ago. Did our language get dumber because of this?

    Of course not. Languages, including English, evolve. We have things like irregular verbs because, well, our language isn’t regular. We have tons of weird things that don’t always make sense. And we have some points of language where there’s disagreement.

    Sneaked versus snuck seems to especially be one of those points. We have reference works that say it is correct and not. In contrast, in your example, you’ll be hard pressed to find reference works that will suggest it is common to use “jest” in place of “just.”

    My own rule when it comes to the use of “correct” English is this. If you’re going to “break” some commonly accepted rules, that’s fine as long as you understand the rules you’re breaking. I learned that from one of my English teachers in high school, and I think it’s good advice.

    If you want to write in a dialect or manner that’s not commonly spoken, enjoy — but know that you’re doing it, and know why you’re doing it and be prepared to defend yourself, if questioned.

    I generally use a plural pronoun since English lacks a singuarl neuter pronoun, for cases where I need to describe someone but don’t want to have the “he/she/s/he” debate. I explain that more at the end of this article:

    http://daggle.com/dear-s-larson-of-citibank-youre-not-real-so-please-retire-208

    I know why I do it. I’m prepared if someone questions it. I don’t feel it interferes with understanding what I’ve written.

    As for snuck, that’s what I learned, what I’ve spoken, what I’ve heard others spoken. I’ll be sticking with it.

  65. says

    Danny, here’s something to consider. With the increasing presence of out-of-the-closet transgendered people engaging in the public discourse, a renewed effort to standardize a gender-neutral pronoun has emerged. Many people use “them” instead of “him” or “her.” I don’t like that because I find it confusing. I wonder who are the other people being referred to.

    But “ze” (“zes,” “ze’s,” “zeself,” etc.) is beginning to become recognized by official bodies, such as Australia’s census bureau. It will take a bit of effort to get that into the daily lexicon, but I’m just old enough to remember when feminists first started pushing for “Ms.” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs.” That only took a decade or so to become commonplace.

    BTW, “Ms.” was originally proposed by a newspaper reporter in 1901. It wasn’t until 1961 that a feminist activist discovered that article, and she was able to promote its use to a NYC radio audience in ’69 or ’70. The debate raged in the mid-’70s and by the mid-’80s, few questioned it as a proper honorific.

  66. englishman says

    I still find it extremely amusing that you pick each other up on the slightest mistake, yet you repeatedly use the phrase “British English”. WE DO NOT SPEAK BRITISH ENGLISH, WE SPEAK ENGLISH.

  67. says

    No, Englishman, you speak British English. To say you speak “English” implies that you speak the only correct or “true” version of English, and all other forms — say Australian English, American English, Canadian English — are incorrect or not original.

    In fact, if you do a bit of research, you’ll discover that some usages of American English are more true to “original” English spoken at the time North American was colonized.

    For example, from here:
    http://www.englishclub.com/english-language-history.htm

    In some ways, American English is more like the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that the British call “Americanisms” are in fact original British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn

    But if it makes you feel better to think British English = English, enjoy. Those of us who disagree will find that attitude equally amusing.

  68. Marc says

    I have really enjoyed monitoring this thread. It is a pleasure to read what the thinkers have posted in the comments. Gives one much to consider and I appreciate the chuckles some of you have presented for the rest of us to share.

    Marcello, thanks for noting the crash part of one of my comments. I agree, wreck is the most sensible word to use. A wreck is the result of a crash. Arguably, however, I disagree that most wrecks are not accidents. Someone may be at fault, but I sincerely doubt they did it on purpose. If that happened a lot I would imagine we’d call them intentionals instead of accidents. Would anyone agree? ;0)

    I have heard it argued that American English is actually closer to the Queen’s English of the mid 1700′s than what is currently in England today. I took a few minutes to see if I could find any citations, however I did not locate any, unlike Danny did. Good work, Danny.

    The more snobbish, for lack of a better word at the moment, sound of today’s British accents is also a result of the last couple of hundred years and is not how it was spoken back in the 18th century. Proper pronunciation – yes; exaggerated inflection – no. It appears I found a better phrase to describe it after all.

    Hopefully what Danny and I have had to add regarding language evolution is not taken as an insult to our fellow English speaking neighbors, but rather taken into consideration of the overall discussion of snuck versus sneaked. Simply because one version of English does not contain a word does not make it irrelevant.

    At least google Chrome’s spell checker underscores snuck as being spelt wrong. That should be considered a win for you, Trish! :0) Yes, I know that the spell-checker has a lot to do with this article’s origination.

    I wish we could just sit down and reform the language using logic and be met with a completely receptive crowd of all English speakers. We would completely eliminate all the irregular words and ensure that all words followed the basic rules of the language. Past Tense? It ends with ‘ed’ – if the vowel inside the word was short and it ends with only one consonant it must be doubled. End of story. Our prodigy would find English a very simple subject with no room for error as long as you followed the rules. Confusion would be forever removed! No double meaning words, no contractions [oh, I hate those in the written word!], no more complexity, and no localization! If we could somehow achieve that and then reset every English speaker and writer to utilize it, we still would have the problem of the human mind. Our mind simply is not bound by logic because we are not that simple of a being. Reason is quickly trampled when emotion comes into play.

    In truth, the language would lose it’s beauty. Beauty is an emotional reaction, not a logical one. Words will always have double meanings as long as people are sexual beings. You know what I mean… The most innocent sentence can be misconstrued with a slight accent change and mean something else completely different.

    Emotion aside, people will begin to add local rules and come up with new spellings out of genius, as a result of social interaction, or simply to make a point. People will find shortcuts, attempt to make things sound better, leave out parts of speech, make a unique variation so they feel like a part of a region, and slang would evolve. Slang would eventually become accepted and put into the dictionary.

    With all of that in mind, I will say I am stuck with snuck. In the end, at least it is a word that a poet can use to get sneaking to rhyme with duck.

  69. Steven says

    Did you know: Plural of “mouse” is “mice” of course. But plural of “computer mouse” is “computer mouses”.

  70. says

    “Dug” and “drugged,” I believe. But I grew up using “pet” as past tense of “pet.” I don’t know. It just sounded right. But, as an adult, I noticed everyone used “petted” and I’ve worked to change my erroneous ways. I periodically hear people use “pet” as past tense, so I wonder if that will eventually become more commonplace and, eventually, accepted.

  71. englishman says

    But if it makes you feel better to think British English = English, enjoy. Those of us who disagree will find that attitude equally amusing.

    yes ,i do hold that view and always will, and altough i may make gramatical, spelling or syntax errors, i do not care, we can ALL make mistakes with our own language, that does not make the language wrong it only makes the person using it wrong. English is English regarless of how badly an Englishman uses it. The concept of British English only exists outside of britain and no self respecting briton would ever use the term, you can call the version that YOU speak whatever you wish, but we brits, know what it is really called, and that is BOLLOCKS.

    BTW, Dont bother correcting my numerous mistakes, and you can laugh all you wish at my misuse of my own language, but there it is, an Englishman using English

  72. says

    Englishman, the concept of American English similarly exists outside of America :)

    Actually, neither is true. Most people in America say they speak English; most in Britain say they speak English — neither typically thinks they speak “American English” or “British English.” But they do indeed have these concepts when they compare their English to that spoken by someone else.

    Anyway, if you want to be a pratt and start calling bollocks on anyone who disagrees with you, part of me wants to say just bugger off. But that would only be to, you know, make it clear that I can get into the gutter with British English as well as American English.

    My wife’s British. My two sons are half-British. In our house, we speak both American English and British English. We get along pretty well and actually enjoy some of the differences, rather than fighting about it. Though I generally lose the battle that Z is pronounced Z not Zed :)

  73. says

    Referring to “British English,” “American English,” “Australian English…” is, as I pointed out earlier in another context, simply a way to effectively communicate a point. Most often, people do not make a distinction when referring to the English language. But it becomes relevant when discussing, as we are here, what is considered proper.

    If I were talking about torches and boots and lifts and lorries, and others were not understanding what I was saying, I’d explain that I was using British English.

    Similarly, it’s an important distinction as information becomes increasingly borderless (not an actual word, according to Firefox), when one must set the language on computer programs for spell-checking, to name one example.

  74. Trish says

    What about Hillbilly English? Don’t forget about us!
    I Love you guys. I love to argue. This is the BEST fun.
    xxxooo

  75. Anal Eyes says

    Shit, I do what I think is going to be a quick search and it ends up costing me a “bloody” 45 minutes (what with the links and all). Thanks a lot, guys!!

    This took up more of my time than when I tried to find a consensus on canceled vs. cancelled (the former according to this spell check; the latter to others), and that quest was equally as futile!

    Think I’ll get back to my email now.

  76. Ash says

    Growing up in Michigan, all I ever heard was “snuck.” The fact that it’s incorrect makes me want to punch babies :(

  77. John says

    Give me a break. How about “sneak, snack, snuck”…? Even my browser has a fit over “snuck” – my own reaction is a bit closer to heart attack. As an English minor and a fussy grammarian, I object strenuously to the abuse of our language with such as “snuck.” I hope that you will come to the conclusion that it’s an ignorant form which has gained an audience as ignorance in America has become more prevalent. You can help – strike the accursed term from your vocabulary!

  78. Sarah says

    Thanks for this post. Sneaked has always seemed a little weird to me even though I know it is correct since I have always been used to hearing snuck. In speaking I say one, in writing I say the other. I believe that is how a lot of language is though. It is a lot like Lit vs. lighted or dove vs. dived. My personal favorite that has become the thing that tweaks my nerves the most though is the misuse of the word MYSELF. That goes for British and U.S. It is a reflexive pronoun but more and more people are using it in place of the word me. “It was John, Eliza and myself…” “Please feel free to call Peter or myself…” I can’t call yourself people!

  79. Mark says

    In “snuck” vs “sneaked”, I prefer the later. After all, you say, “I sneaked around the corner”. “The killer sneaked up on his victim”. It’s derived from the word “sneak”. “Snuck” just doesn’t make any sense, but as one person noted, we hear people misuse words everyday and copy them. My personal tweak is people who substitute “I” for “me” because they think it makes them sound more learned. As in “Give it to Sue and I”.

    Bradvines, I completely disagree with you. You said ““The race had ended, and the awards were given out”, is WRONG. Right is, “The race ended and the awards were given out”.

    Here is why I disagree…..saying “the race ended”, implies that it happened recently, followed immediately by the awards. But saying it int this context: “The reason the awards were given out, is because the race had ended”, works perfectly.
    “The race had ended, and the awards were given out”

  80. Dan Elliott says

    Interesting post.

    Just a bit of info…

    Snuk is not a word. While linguistically “snuk” has become acceptable through usage, grammatically it is incorrect.

    Similar to the word “ain’t”. “Ain’t” has become acceptable to some and has even been acknowledged in some dictionaries. “Ain’t” however, is not grammatically correct.

    What about “I don’t got no…”?

    Eventually words and improper modes of speech which are used regularly by the masses will become acceptable and even be recognized as legitimate words by many dictionaries.

    Just a tangent…

    Some words, such as “got” are legit, but are often used sloppily.

    Also, when writing professionally, it is best to stay clear of contractions. It’s (heh) just a lazy way of writing, ain’t it? :)

  81. Dan Elliott says

    An afterthought.

    Just for fun, why can one hang a picture? The picture was hung. He hung the picture.

    The man was hanged, not hung. :)

    Mahalo

  82. Brian says

    Dear Dan,

    Ain’t actually used to be a word that was in the dictionary back in the early 1700′s. It was the contraction for ‘am not’. However, people started using it incorrectly saying he ain’t, she ain’t, we ain’t, and the older generations kept telling the younger people that what they were saying was wrong until eventually using the word at all (even correcty) became a ‘mistake’.

  83. Josie says

    This was fun! Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, my instincts tell me to say “snuck.” But then I was writing, and my computer said, “You’re so wrong, dude.” So I turned to the internet.

    I have a great many grammar and spelling pet peeves. The one that tops my list is breathe/breath (and associated examples, like bathe/bath etc.). I go into a rage. I’ve seen this error in published works, and it drives me up the wall. However, I studied linguistics, and I know that despite the fits of fury I have every time I see this mistake, language is going to change. Someone is probably having fits of fury concerning the amount of commas I pepper my sentences with – and the fact that I just ended that clause with a preposition. (I split infinitives, too! That’s a stupid rule, anyway; it was meant for Latin, not English!)

    Does this mean that we shouldn’t correct errors when we see them? Of course not! But it also means that if the majority makes a decision to adopt a new usage, there is little we can do about it, no matter how many red pens we have. That’s how language WORKS. If “the majority” decided to get rid of the final ‘e’ that indicated a voiced interdental fricative – well, frankly, we’d have problems, like distinguishing clothes from cloths, and I might have a heart attack. But the language would hardly implode.

    In conclusion: I’m sticking with snuck. Just like my mum, who grew up in the same area as I did and speaks largely the same way I do, insists on saying “warsh” instead of “wash,” despite the number of times I snicker at her. If I ever publish something, I promise I’ll consider “sneaked” instead – I’ll also watch my split infinitives and prepositions. But in casual language? Sorry, dudes. Tough luck.

  84. Kate says

    I liked this but one thing you got wrong is calling “will have sneaked” or “will have + any past participle” as PRESENT perfect. That is FUTURE perfect. Present perfect is “have/has run” or whatever.

  85. says

    To Gregory:

    You’re right about the ‘fish’ thing. And to the one who breaks rules: I think ‘snuck’ is right rather than ‘sneaked’. And right English grammar should be kept as for the rules ( I think) but mostly I really want to stick with the ‘snuck’ word. :)

  86. paul says

    well, i snuck into this conversation, which has carried on quite some time, only to say to trish, how about dumbing *up* the language for the purposes of communication? some concepts are better communicated with creative improper use of the language (thus the beauty of the OED, showing definition by usage over time!)

    sometimes the poetry of the wrong is the only proper tool for the inenarrable ;)

    best of luck in the future perfect tense to all of you sneaking irregular verbs into the pantheon!

  87. Betty Wentz says

    I am from Northern California, born and reared there. I live in Utah now and have a pet peeve–people using the word “snuck” as the past tense of sneak. This includes my family and friends. The word “snuck” makes me cringe every time I hear it and it has been years. I will never get used to it. I looked it up once and learned that “sneaked” is a more formal use. Another pet peeve of mine is the faulty use of the words “me” and “I”. In your article above you refer to Francesca Simone…who grew up in California (like me ) and who lives in the UK (like me)….In both cases it should be “I”. Thinking it out: “like I do” or “like I did”. Thanks for letting me vent.

  88. jwpopp says

    Bless you, Betty and Trish! Thank goodness for the puritans among us, eh? The “I” and “me” variations drive me up the wall, too – no one seems to teach subjective/objective cases anymore – or at least (more typically, perhaps) students aren’t listening. It infuriates me that so many defend this dumbing down of the language as “natural evolution” or some such doofus excuse, when the only thing natural about it is deliberate ignorance. In some cases, ignorance is inevitable, but it’s never defensible. In too many, it’s simply the result of laziness. In our lemming-like march to the drum of PC and “anything’s OK”, we’re sacrificing far more than our basic rights, eh? To keep adjectives on point – the loss of ability to render nuanced expression as the result of diminishment of language is criminal, not natural – uhhhh – yeah, I know….

  89. Donna Lee says

    Most of what I’ve read indicates that “snuck” is one of those words that has become acceptable over the years, through excessive usage. Whenever I read that, I’m happy that I use the “original” form of the word ~ I’m a purist about grammar (a grammar “snob,” I suppose), and feel that grammar isn’t negotiable.

    It doesn’t make sense to me to just let common usage dictate what is “acceptable.” If that becomes the criterion for acceptability, then all the people (and the number is ridiculously high) who ask, “Where is the restroom at?” are “correct!” I say, “No way!” Majority rule does NOT necessarily make something right!

  90. PJohn says

    Amen, Donna. Majority rule becomes the case of the blind leading the halt. Moreover, “common” is just that.

  91. says

    Actually, majority rule is exactly what makes things right in language. But if you disagree, please shift back to speaking middle English or perhaps German :)

    Modern English is a far different language that has evolved, over time. No one sat down and decided how it should evolve. Nor does someone do it today. We have language rules, yes. But those rules get broken, and when they continue to be broken enough, the rules change.

  92. says

    Excellent insight Danny! Ye hit the wooden peg on the olde head. What’s even more interesting than the evolution of language…is how resistant humans are to change and how resistant we can be to “breaking a rule”. As a recovering grammar policeman I’ve learned the hard way that bound-up thinking goes further than just writing. I’m not advocating gibberish (which has been written by some celebrated authors, though no one would dare admit it). But innovation in all things follows a string of broken rules.

  93. Trish says

    Sheesh. I feel like I am in a Ray Bradbury novel. Why can we not just burn the grammar books since we have decided that they are obsolete–we follow public grammar usage not a stupid book (note sarcasm). While we are at it, let us burn the rest of them (fiction, nonfiction, etc.)
    “We don’t need no education…teacher, leave them kids alone.”

  94. says

    I feel that, with language, like any other form of art, one should know the rules and choose which ones to break and when. I’m glad I know proper US English grammar, but I will not likely ever use such phrases as, “with whom are you going to the movies?” I’d say, “who are you going to the movies with?”

    Feel free to speak perfectly proper English in your daily lives. Most of the rest of us will find you pretentious. But you’ll have the last laugh, knowing that you are right and the rest of us are fools.

  95. Donna Lee says

    I’m with you, Trish … and, Marcello, I get your point about not going overboard ~ But, lately I’ve been thought of as pretentious, just for expressing my dislike for the “at” at the end of a sentence (and, no, I would never call people out; I do mention it to my kids, though).

    The latest phenomenon of “majority rule” gone amuk (in the U.S.), in my opinion, began “on the street,” and has now made its way to television ~ being uttered regularly even by journalists, who I would think would resist it — and that is the almost-total abandonment of the word ‘are’ in a certain sense ~ Every day, I hear people in all walks of life say, “There’s a lot of problems with the school system,” and “There’s blankets in the storeroom.” Wow. What’s the opposite of ‘pretentious?’ ~ In this case, I think it’s ‘Lazy.’

  96. Betty Wentz says

    Another one that bothers me is the misuse of your and you’re. I’m definitely not perfect in my verbal grammar but somewhat better in what I write, usually. A preposition at the end of a sentence, the misuse of “I” and “me”, “snuck” instead of “sneaked”, the use of “myself” instead of “me”, etc., all serve to make me wonder what our language will degenerate into in 30 years. I still can’t get used to “ain’t” being in the dictionary. By the way, spell check on my computer indicates snuck is not a proper word. I personally don’t believe majority rule is a good thing in grammar any more than in government. I say, “Rule of law in both!”.

  97. says

    Majority rule is what has always driven the evolution of language. However, in the examples mentioned, I don’t believe those sentences were uttered by people who knew the difference and chose to break the rules. That’s just ignorance.

    I’m not worried though. As long as there are people like us who do know the rules and talk about it, write about it, keep the conversation going, I have no fear that intelligent conversation will continue–much of which will be in the form of proper English.

  98. William R. Moore says

    SNUCK was not even in the dictionary when I was in College in the 60′s. SNEAKED is the proper usage if you don’t want to appear slightly red-neck. Another word that is being taken over by misuse is SCARED used in place of AFRAID. eg. I was SCARED to go, instead of, I was AFRAID to go ( because something scared me ).

  99. PJohn says

    Ascared? That’s “skeered”, son. ;-)

    We are certainly separating the traditionalists from the ‘who cares?’, are we not? KUDOs – great discussion.

  100. Jeff says

    I hate ‘snuk’. It’s almost as bad as ‘irregardless’.

    It’s all part of the dumbing-down of America.

  101. says

    First, I don’t think anyone is arguing on behalf of the word “snuk.” It’s spelled “snuck.” Ha.

    And Trish, don’t add fuel to the pile. It’s already inflammable. Or is that flammable? One of them has to be correct, right? You couldn’t possibly have two versions of the same word meaning the same thing. That would be…anarchy!

  102. says

    “And Trish, don’t add fuel to the pile.”

    Marcello, we’re already knee-deep in a conversation about viable word choices, are we really going to add mixed-metaphors into this too? :) And on that note (could those fragments of conjoined-punctuation be considered a “note” or am I just using a colloquial phrase out-of-context?), are emoticons viable forms of communication? They’re certainly a severe bastardization of written language, yet they just as certainly serve a useful function. Is “emoticon” a word? What makes “snuck” more or less of a word?

    Back to grammar, what about starting a sentence with a conjunction? Or inserting a question mark amidst a parenthetical clause? Or the use of sentence fragments involving implied subjects for ease-of-continuity? Frankly, I would consider the “sneaked”/”snuck” debate to be just as fruitless (though just as important, as the debate itself has much merit) as a discussion on proper grammar. I certainly wouldn’t consider an alternative mode of speech to be “dumbing down” language.

    P.S. Marcello, I do actually agree with your sentiment. I’m just playing with syntax and being a jerk. For clarity: I am still in favor of “snuck.”

  103. carlmarl says

    I was shewn this by the Google and lol’d heartily at the pearl clutching. Chill people. Or would that be calmeth yourselves? IDK, god get over it. Snuck is here. Deal with it or go get another language that never changes. Oh wait.

  104. says

    Edly, I suppose one could be knee-deep in a flaming pile onto which something inflammatory is poured. And you bring up so many great conundrums (or is that conundri?). Language can be so much fun.

    I’ll reiterate my earlier statement, the purpose of language is to communicate effectively. Knowing your audience should be taken into consideration when formulating your speech. Modern technology has coerced us into breaking all sorts of rules.

    And, no, it was I who was being…wait…it was me who was being…I was the one being a jerk. Ha!

    I HATE texting because it take’s too long to punctuate, and I just can’t abide by that. I don’t mind acronyms and abbreviations, even things like “2nite,” etc. (though things like signs stating “open all nite” still bug me). But improper punctuation often forces a reader to re-read and sometimes interpret.

  105. says

    carlmarl, I love that you used the word “shewn.” Awesome. And “pearl clutching” is such a great metaphor. I’m going to have to remember to use that one! And, I think that would be “calmeth thyselves.” I could be wrong though. ;-)

    Not to pick on you, but you provided an example of why punctuation is so important. You wrote “chill people” and I first thought you were referring us as a laid-back group. But then I realized that (I think) you meant “chill, people,” meaning you were suggesting that we calm down.

    I love this thread!

  106. Karen B. says

    I realize I’m joining this conversation a bit late, but I’d like to correct one thing that I’ve seen a lot of people write here. Grammar is NOT constantly changing. In fact, grammar and punctuation rules have changed remarkably slowly over time. Word meaning and spelling change much more rapidly. Grammar rules? Not so much.

  107. says

    True. Grammar *rules* haven’t kept up with actual usage. For the most part, I’m glad. But, I’d say that the majority of communication (verbal and written) routinely break many of those rules: beginning a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or,” for instance.

    ;^)

    One should know the rules (of anything) before breaking them.

  108. says

    Exactly! Once you know the rules, they’re a lot of fun to break. This is especially true if you’re breaking them in a manner which creates a minor bit of ambiguity. That subtle confusion is the essence of an entire style of humor. I would posit that good writing follows the rules very well; great writing breaks them to pieces. After all, the rules became rules to serve a point. It only stands to reason that you can create an equally viable point by NOT following those rules. Now, this isn’t meant to say that rules should be haphazardly disregarded… and I’m certainly not suggesting that we install linguistic anarchy. That would actually work against the point. In that case, language wouldn’t function at all. Rather, I view rule breaking in subtle, clever, and intentional ways as a means of furthering the capabilities of the language.

    I also love this thread. Without discussions like this the whole idea I just outlined wouldn’t even be possible. Well, it would. But it would be a seriously inside joke to one guy who thought he’d invented the best pun of all time. (Puns, by the way, are awesome. They’re the most selfish jokes possible. No one likes them except the person who made them. And he always thinks they’re HILARIOUS.)

    Anyway, the main reason that grammar doesn’t change very much over time is because it’s the foundation of the language. It’s a lot easier to redecorate the walls and buy new furniture than it is to build a new house. The words and spelling are the walls and furniture. Sometimes, the junk people put in their house is pretty tacky and gross. But sometimes, a new idea can be extremely elegant and classy.

  109. Donna Lee says

    Okay, carlmarl ~ Your recent post has now set me off on another tangent: Shouldn’t “pearl clutching” be “pearl-clutching?” My frequent use of hyphens is probably the most old-fashioned (‘See?) of my writing habits. I realize that hyphens were used generously years ago, and that they are practically non-existent (a.k.a. “nonexistent”) today, but I LOVE hyphens! My eyes always go right to the spot where (I think) a hyphen should be!

    Many words don’t make sense to me, when they’re not hyphenated. If you refer to “an old fashioned style,” I immediately want to add a hyphen; otherwise, it the style is old AND it is fashioned. I often see “Honey Baked Ham” or Apricot Basted Chicken,” and the absence of hyphens makes me crazy. To me, it’s as blatant an error as your “Chill people,” carlmarl! Unfortunately, I can’t chill on the hyphen issue, any more than I can on the “snuck” issue.

  110. Donna Lee says

    I can’t believe I didn’t catch my superfluous “it” after the word “otherwise!” Since this is a tough crowd, I want to point out my mistake, before someone else gives me grief about it …

  111. Mark says

    Marcello, there is still no reason to start a sentence with “and”, “but” or “or”. I always use “however”, instead of “but” to start a sentence and I’ve yet to find the occasion where “and” or “or” can’t be used as part of the previous sentence, instead of starting a new sentence. By the way, in your note above, “The majority of communication routinely ‘breaks’, not ‘break’ many of those rules”.

  112. says

    I feel the same way about hyphens. I often think I’m the only person left to obsessively use them when appropriate. But (yes, I plan to continue using “but” as often as “however” to begin sentences when it enhances the flow), I usually understand what people are trying to convey. There are times, however, that I have to reread an improperly hyphenated sentence to determine what the author actually meant.

    Mark, I obviously disagree with you over the use of conjunctions to begin a sentence. And, isn’t “however” a conjunction? I’d actually like to know what the rule is there and why that’s an exception. Maybe I’ll do some research on that.

    As for my use of “break” instead of “breaks,” I don’t have a copy editor, and it’s hard to proof one’s own work. It was a typo. Thank you for pointing it out though. Modifying the adjective that (which?) precedes the last word often causes trouble.

    I agree that this thread is both fun and informative. I also want to state that, though I plan to continue to use “snuck,” I have my own pet peeves. I may even point errors out to others. I just don’t tend to think that the sky is falling and that human communication will devolve to the point of grunting and scratching.

    I urge people to watch the movie Idiocracy, nonetheless.

  113. says

    Do you think that the past tense of swing is swung may have influenced our belief that the past tense of sneak is snuck? That just popped into my head as I used swung in a message.

    Or is it swang? Swinged? Swingen?

    ;^)p

  114. Mark says

    Or Swim, swam (swum?) Good point. As for which grammatical errors bother me, I guess the higher the source, the more I expect perfection. Ex President Bush’s errors really annoyed me. Here was a guy who liked to “shoot from the hip”, but clearly shouldn’t have tried. Dan Quayle should have known how to spell potato.

    I work in a film processing lab and people who work there misspell develop (they add an “e”). That annoys me. Newspaper headlines should be correct. What about signs and menus, where somebody spent a lot of money having them printed, but didn’t check spelling?

    If all these examples don’t make you cringe, how about this? There was a giant billboard on Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles, which stated something like, “We need to unify to stop frivilous lawsuit”. It was funded by a group of attorneys.

  115. Trish says

    I always use hyphens when I write poetry, and now it is starting to appear in my prose. I think I picked this up from reading Emily D’s poetry.
    I also use “and” to occasionally begin a sentence, usually short ones where a point needs to be made. For some reason, it seems to be more effective if the sentence is a short one that follows several compound or complex sentences. And this is all I have to say.
    xxxooo

  116. Donna Lee says

    ‘Just had a thought I couldn’t resist sharing: To me, saying “snuck” is as laughable as saying something like “Her singing career puck [aka ‘peaked’) in the 1980s.” How about, “The water luck all over the floor.”

  117. PJohn says

    Donna Lee, thank you for the first belly laugh I’ve had in following this. I nearly fruck out while reading your remarks. Let us not ignore the lowly buck hazelnut and buck whale, nor the hardy sailor with his tuck deck. You go, girl!

  118. says

    Hahaha! I am definitely going to start saying that people’s careers have puck. That is hilarious.

    So, noticing that this debate is certainly not going away any time soon, I’ve started to wonder some things about it. Out of curiosity, how old are each of you (roughly)? I’m starting to wonder what the links are between people on each side of the debate. If I could harbor a guess, I’d presume that younger people are more likely to say “snuck” than older people. We’ve discussed geography a bit but I’m curious as to how sharply the lines are drawn regarding age.

    I’m fairly young, so I’m about to lose any credibility for my comments, and I like “snuck.” I’m in my mid-twenties.

  119. PJohn says

    I’m 67, was born and reared in West Virginia, and am a Consulting Engineer. I despise ignorant degradation of the language. For anyone steeped in the classics and professionally adept at communication, defense of “snuck” and its ilk fall into the same baseless category as defense of childish crayon scribbles as serious or knowledgeable art.

    Such “change” is not growth, but a sign of the language slowly shrinking into a mass of signs and grunts, a method which apparently worked well for cave dwellers, but didn’t contribute a thing to creation of the computer you’re using or of the great literature languishing on shelves everywhere.

    It’s not a matter of opinion or “it’s my right” (sigh) preference. One is either educated or not. The “dumbing-down” of language is in inverse proportion to the depth of a population’s understanding of words, etymology, classical base languages, literature, and nuance in communication. Our education system and the commitment and education of parents have failed, with diminishing ability to communicate a portion of the result.

    In English, we “own” upwards of 750,000 words, a cornucopia capable of informing the most delicate nuance. Of that, most adults know fewer than 20,000 while the grunters seem to perceive even that paltry portion as being far too many. After all, it’s supposed to be easy, eh?

    Just as skilled tradesmen require apprenticeship to learn a craft, so does our entire population deserve apprenticeship in the art of communication and verbal expression, in the course of which one is forbidden journeyman status until one has achieved considerable skill. Unfortunately, laziness and disinterest have created in the U.S. an atmosphere entirely too tolerant of Eloi who claim right without merit.

    We individually have the right to choose ignorance, but it’s self-defeating to defend ignorance as knowledge, is it not? Let us hope that our physicians don’t decide that “Grunt” is an adequate basis in language for discussion and treatment of our physical ills.

    And thus has puck my bilious intolerance.

  120. Anna says

    Perhaps evolution of language is at risk for a bad turn when it is changing in step with, as a result of, other degredations. If culture is swinging upward, language shifts might be fine.

  121. PJohn says

    ….and I know better than to open a sentence with a conjunction, but the irresistible “And….” form provides effective, albeit slangy, conversational emphasis; so I does it wit’ no ‘pology offered.

  122. Donna Lee says

    I’m 63, was born in California, raised mostly in New York, and have lived on three continents since being married. (I’m now back in California.) I’m a self-confessed “grammar snob,” and, like PJohn, see “snuck” as a childish, made-up form of the word.

    My biggest influence was my mother, who was brought up in a “proper” family, and loved English. I also credit the then-wonderful New York education I received. And the significance of my international living experiences is that I always have in my mind the plight of the expat or immigrant, who is learning the language of his host country. How can others learn the language properly, if the “natives” don’t speak it correctly?

    Every time I hear someone ask, “Where is the restroom at?” or say “lasheer” instead of “last year,” I think of people who are trying to learn our language mostly by watching television (where these, and other similar “wrongs” can be heard). I learned, living overseas, to speak slowly and distinctly, and it makes me feel good to be told by people from other countries that they appreciate the way I speak, because it is not rushed and garbled. It’s like anything else — When we try to do something well, we love being complimented on it.

    I definitely think that those of us who are “older” revere the English we learned, whereas some younger people are more willing to adopt newer “adaptations.” We had wonderful role models; I have always thought of William F. Buckley as the ultimate model English-speaker. (I wasn’t crazy about his politics until his more moderate later years, but I was transfixed by the way he spoke with such precision!)

    Realizing that I sound like a real stick-in-the-mud, I feel compelled to add that I’m fun-loving, am told that I am “young” for my age, and love creative projects (writing poetry and making greeting cards). I love and keep up with popular music. When my own kids were into the music of “my” generation (Beatles, Bob Marley, etc.), I was speaking excitedly about the “current” music with their friends.

    An amusing anecdote combining English grammar and popular music: I hated Bryan Adams’ song (of the ’90s), “Everything I Do, I Do it for You,”
    because I felt (and still do) that the title should have been the grammatically-correct “Everything I Do I Do for You.” (Am I right about that? I hope so — I would hate to have to tell my kids that my protests were misguided!)

  123. Donna Lee says

    Danny, I love your “identity” as a “snucker!” I guess you “took our place” in England — We lived in London from ’94 to ’97. That was another, later influence in my love affair with English. Most Brits speak more deliberately, and I really like that.

    PJohn, while in England, I snickered at snooker.

  124. PJohn says

    Donna Lee, I’m a bit perplexed over snickering at snooker, which has long possessed numerous meanings on both sides of the pond.
    I admit that I’ve played snooker, been well-snookered (var; “snockered”), and snookered more than one greenhorn (in jest.)

    Did you discover yet another variant among meanings for this delightfully colorful and nonsensical term?

    Oh, good grief. A little searching has revealed at least six U.K. variations in the meaning of “snooks” (not of “snookered”)- no wonder you were amused.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=snooks

  125. says

    This is a fun set of comments. To Marcello, thanks for the correct use of y’all. It is plural and one would never say “Y’all comeback now.” as one person was leaving your house. To Trish-I was able to read your “…learned us sumpin” with no problems. I’ve always had a good ear for dialect and usually can read it with few problems, ” ‘specially when it’s from down home”. When I moved to Cleveland I was asked what part of the South I came from. My reply was from Ohio. But yes, southern Ohio. We say sack instead of bag, and baked goods instead of bakery. You buy baked goods at a bakery and take them home in a sack, not you picked up bakery and take it in a bag. Both are colloquial English, and both make sense to me. I watched an old tv show that called a tow truck a wrecker. It had been years since I’d heard that, yet I knew at once what was meant.When I was a kid I played in a “crick” though it was spelled “creek”. “Wash” was pronounced “warsh” Do you know what a tree lawn is? Many folks in my home town don’t, yet most everyone in Cleavland certainly would. How about a devil strip? They mean the same thing, but the second is common in Akron, just 30 miles away( 48 km). The word “goodbye” was considered very wrong when it began to be substituted for “God be with you.”
    English grows and changes. I love the fact that I can go back and find a nearly obsolete word and use it for emphasis or just for fun. I love many new words, and most new usages of old words. When I was born the word “satellite” meant the Moon, and bodies like it. Seven years later that changed with a little thing called Sputnik, which then changed a “beat” poet into “beatnik”. Words like “buckaroo” snuck in from Spanish, “vaquero”, and was transformed. Gay has changed a lot in just my lifetime. And we have cobwebs but cobs are found in corn, um… maize to those in the UK.
    Sometimes “That just ain’t right” is the best way to convey what you need to say and how you want to say it. Jefferson lived in Monticello, pronounced “Montichello”. The street that crosses mine is Monticello, pronounced “Montisello” and everyone would know you were from out of town if you pronounced the “ch”.
    You Brits tacked an “e” on to a very impolite, though perfectly good Anglo-Saxon word and my wife had to have it translated when watching a film from the UK. I say “zee”, you say “zed”. Grey or gray? Kerb or curb? Jail or gaol?
    Trish – your complaint is that we get lazy and words get said incorrectly. Yes! That’s how we got bedlam, tawdry, and maudlin.
    I guess my point is that English is a living, growing language.
    Try to use formal or standard English if you must or if it makes you feel better but be open to the fact that someday what is standard may change.
    Meanwhile have fun with English; it is such a funny, fun, vibrant language.
    ‘Bye now. Nice talkin’ with y’all.

  126. says

    D’oh! I remember when “Ms.” was introduced into the lexicon. Actually, it was introduced before I was born but picked up speed when I was about five. By the time I was ten, there was a raging debate about it. So many traditionalists abhorred it. By the time I turned 15, it was commonplace. And why not? How confusing it was if one didn’t know whether a woman was married or not. Calling a “ma’am” “miss” got me into trouble once. Stupid!

    Is there resistance to “y’all” being used regularly because the possessive would be “y’all’s” and two apostrophes in one sentence would make some people’s heads explode?

    BTW, here’s a joke I came up with:
    Q: What did the exclamation point say to the apostrophe?
    A: Stop being so possessive!!!

    And, is it okay to use “ASAP” but not “BTW”? What a Snafu that would be! “Snafu” used to be “SNAFU” (Situation Normal All F’d Up). OMG!

    I love learning new colloquialisms! Lorry, boot, lift, braces–all British English. Sorry, but there is a difference between British, Australian, Canadian, etc. English, just as there is a difference between Peruvian, Spanish, Venezuelan, Mexican, etc. Spanish.

    Is it a “puma,” “mountain lion,” “cougar,” “panther,” “catamount,” other? In California, they’re “mountain lions.” I think “cougar” is sexier.

    I like using quotes (AKA quotation marks).

    “We had a couple of beers.” Used to drive me crazy. Beer is both singular and plural. “We had a couple of *cans* (or *bottles*) of beer. But I finally got over that.

    I’ll never accept “the proof is in the pudding” though. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I’m fighting a losing battle, I know. People just accept that there’s an omniscient pudding somewhere.

    “I only have eyes for you.” Does that mean that you have nothing but eyes to give someone? Does “I feel nauseous” mean that I feel like I’m nauseating others?

    I remember when we started using “queer” as an all-inclusive form of “gay” (instead of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning”). That drove Baby Boomers nertz. But Gen X (I prefer “Baby Busters”) and Millennials prefer the ease and inclusivity (not a word, I know). Nowadays (was that always a proper word?), Millennials tend to distinguish between “gay,” meaning mainstream homosexual, and “queer,” which means alternative or activist gender outlaws.

    The mispronunciation of Monticello, for obvious reasons, has always bugged me (an improper use of bug, I believe). I can tell people (verbally) that my name is mar-chell-oh, and people will respond “good to meet you, mar-sell-oh.” For those planning to visit San Francisco, they’re “cable cars,” not “trolleys,” unless you’re riding Muni, in which case they’re “street cars.” And Ghirardelli has a hard “g” and a silent “r”.

    I also prefer “grey.” Why don’t we ride “Grayhound” buses (aside from the fact that Greyhound Bus Line sucks)? Why doesn’t “buses” have two of the letter “s”? How does one write the plural of a letter, anyhow?

    Oh, I could go on and on.

  127. says

    OK, I have a plural that is driving me mad. We have “two” “too” and “to” so the the English language has three “what” ? I can say the word but how do we write it and be inclusive? How about tooze? We have three tooze! Not like the sloth who has three toes.
    I forgot to say I do like fruck instead of freaked, but one would have to really be careful.
    Meanwhile, the lights winked out as he snuck off to bed.

  128. PJohn says

    Pity the poor ballerina owning more than one costume, thus having the care of two tutus, too, to manage.

    One need not be excessively careful in using “fruck” – simple orneriness will suffice ;-)

  129. Amanda says

    I’d like to comment on your reference to “web” surfing. You would actually be Web surfing. The word should always be capitalized as a proper noun when referring to the World Wide Web. It’s rather like calling someone Tom rather than Thomas. Even though Tom is a shortened version of Thomas, you’d still capitalize it. Web is a shortened name for World Wide Web.

  130. says

    And why don’t we capitalize telephone or radio? They once were, but we got over it. The internet and the web are supposed to be considered proper nouns, but the overwhelming majority does not capitalize them. Why isn’t earth capitalized?

    Who writes “web site” any more? It’s “website.” Using the proper noun logic, I suppose it should be “Web site.” “Email” used to be “e-mail.” I can’t remember if it was capitalized or not.

    I do, however, take issue with “login” and “logon,” but I accept that forces greater than I have decided it is kosher to use.

    For that matter, who decided that “can not” could become “cannot”? Who decided it was okay to further contract it to make it “can’t”? Why is “okay” spelled out when it began as an acronym (OK)?

    It’s because we, as a people, collectively decided so and some authority at Merriam Webster or Oxford Dictionary decided not to fight it and made it official.

    We could go on and on. Feel free to rage against the machine to the bitter end, but language will continue to evolve. I’m not too concerned that communication will degrade to grunts, but if that keeps you up at night, I can commiserate. I have trouble sleeping because of the state of our environment and an economy driven by continual warfare and cheap goods made by people living in slave-like conditions.

  131. Anna says

    I don’t like “beers” either. It is a substance not a quantity. It is, “We had beer.” Like, “I ate cheese.”

  132. PJohn says

    In the current spirit of bouncing subject changes off the walls, I’ll offer an additional pet peeve as being that of elision of consonants, wherein, for example, “I take the fifth amendment” (a stupid construction) becomes “Uhtayduhfimemen” (indescribable.)

    I frequently witness entire conversations of which I’m able to comprehend only an insignificant portion, which inevitably leads to fruckoutedness (properly elided, f’kowneh.) Thus do we witness the abomination of negative growth, eh?

    The nearly exclusive sounding of vowels alone is – at most – evidence that one’s mouth is open; possibly to catch flies, but certainly not to communicate with anyone the content of whose vocabulary exceeds 50 words. Such series of indecipherable grunts are among the linguistic transgressions that impel me to so passionately defend accuracy in application and maintenance of language.

    It’s healthy and necessary for a language to grow, even – or especially – in its content of charming colloquialisms, but a tocsin sounds as the fullness of its content becomes increasingly erose. Not only are structure and meaning afflicted, but, and more importantly, the understanding of millenia of recorded history and storytelling; without the words and the discipline, the stories and lessons become garbled and eventually lost (forgive us, Clio and Calliope, Erato and sweet Thalia; view us not too harshly Melpomene!)

    Thus is “elision” transmuted to cancerous “erosion” in the butchery of linguistic richness – a process akin to that of being snookered with snuck.

  133. says

    PJohn, my only response to that is that there have always been people who have spoken that way, yet our language has continued to flourish. In fact, I’d argue that people are more literate today than at any time in human history.

    Increasingly, the average person has more access to information than ever before, thanks to the web. Written communication has become far more commonplace today than it was in 1990, because of the use texts and email.

    Granted, our use of words and phrases has become more stunted, LOL. I actually HATE the overuse of that acronym, BTW. But y’all know what I mean, right?

    Of course, that all started with the advent of advertising in the 19th Century, and its explosion in the Post-WWII era.

    Having said that, who else but intellectuals in the mostly empty halls of academia ever had discussions like we’re having here? Thank you, internet.

  134. PJohn says

    Thanks for your response, Marsello … yes, yes, I know…

    LOL? You mean, uhhhh, “Little of Literacy?” :-) I am somewhat sypathetic with the practical value of some form of shorthand for texting (in which I participate with some reluctance, and with frequent serious lapses into full-sentence creations), but have little or no patience with such acronyms in civilized discourse.

    Actually, discussions such as this took place regularly in our home, which was certainly far removed from the halls of academe. How, in fact, can one expect to further success in any venture – including that of living – if one considers one’s education to be complete upon graduation from one level of instruction or another? Curiosity and learning are the engines of societal success, whereas sloth and disinterest are assuredly harbingers of its decline.

    I postulate – knowledgeably, as the result of monitoring both childrens’ and grandchildrens’ texts and rigor in schooling – that the level of literacy in our country is falling, not ascendant. More and more people are communicating, but fewer and fewer are making much more than noise. With more “communication” comes more gibberish.

    As to elision: you’re welcome, but you’d surely at one time or another have discovered it for yourself in pursuit of a less clumsy form – in certain sentence structures – of working around “eliding.” The insurmountable problem with English is its unparalleled bounty of nearly a million words – sheesh! I sense, incidentally, that many “additions” to the language are merely admissions of ignorance of precise terms which already exist, making of those “additions” both mockery of practitioner and evidence of sloth.

    Not all change is good. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.
    The mere fact that a thing can be done doesn’t mean that it should be.

  135. says

    I have been following this wonderful discussion ever since my mother pointed out my use of snuck in a poem I wrote. As to the previous question of age and location I am 37 and grew up mostly in Southern California. Sneaked still sounds wrong to my ears, but I’m working on it. ^_^

    My comment today is regarding texting. Much to the frustration of my two teenage boys I continue to respond to their messages with replies such as, “You mean you would like to go to THEIR house?” Hopefully it will sink in even though they protest that, “It’s just texting, Mom!”

    I do attribute my love of language to my parents rather than school. My mom inspired me with her apparently perfect spelling and punctuation skills, (I still call when I’m in doubt) and my dad who would read the history of words to us from his two volume dictionary. It came with a much needed magnifying glass and had wonderful stories explaining how each word originally came into use and how it evolved over time. That history reminds me that language is in constant motion, but I do wish it could at least be used correctly by reporters and advertisers.

  136. Donna Lee says

    Heather Ann ~ It’s good to have your input! You and I share the “Thanks to my mother …” syndrome. I’m so grateful for the guidance of mine! Something else (completely off the subject) I’ve noticed about mothers and daughters is that, more often than not, the amount of (or lack of) face make-up the daughter wears is similar to that of her mother.
    (I suppose a rebellious, goth girl would be one of the exceptions.) Maybe I’m way off-base on that one, but my theory is based on personal observation.

    I’m happy to see that I’m not the only “annoying” mother, reminding my kids when they make mistakes (which doesn’t happen very often, as their vocabulary and grammar skills have filtered down to them) — When my youngest son calls me on my car phone, and asks, “Where’re you at?” I answer, “I’m AT in the car, on Taylor Boulevard.” He’s like two different people, speaking the “lazy speak” to friends, and then showing flawless speech when in a group of older adults …

    This has turned into a fascinating discussion, with many promising tributaries veering off the “main path” — So much so that I wonder if there’s a good forum about English grammar and vocabular somewhere on the Web (thanks, Amanda) where those who are interested could “meet.” I’ll bet Amazon has some good ones at the bottom of the pages of some of the English usage books sold on their site. There are so many subjects I’d like to share thoughts about (because most people I know are not terribly interested), and this poor blog has been putting up with us since 2006 (which I realized for the first time the other day)!

  137. Jose says

    What I know is that in middle school, our teacher specifically singled out this verb and its forms, and taught us that it was ‘sneak, sneaked, and sneaked.’ It was pointed out how ‘snuck’ was not even a word, and smacked of an ignorant speaker. Because of this, I have always cringed when I hear the non-word ‘snuck’ and always will. I grate my teeth when supposedly well-educated people on television, specifically news broadcasts, say ‘snuck.’ It makes me want to sneak up behind them and pop them on the head with a ruler.

  138. Mark says

    The comment lately about the English language having over one million words, reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago with a German friend. The German language is very precise. For example, you don’t say “see you later” when talking over the phone, since you can’t actually see the person. You would have to say “talk to you later”. Also, there are masculine and feminine verbs etc.

    So my German friend, subscribes to German language publications, because he misses his “rich language”. He opines that there are so many German words for which there are no English equivalents. But I would suggest that there are probably many English words for which there are no German equivalents. He just never hears them because so many people have such a limited vocabulary. I work in the film industry and words like “zoom”, “dutch angle”, “dolly” are used internationally because there ARE no other translations.

    We should be proud that in all airport control towers all over the world and in all ports, English is the universal language that is required. Keep up the good fight!

  139. PJohn says

    While writing to a friend something about having breathed, it occurred to me that we should perhaps consider a modern refinement, such as “breathe, brathe, bruthe.” “It is well to have bruthe, brother,” or perhaps “..to have bru, bro.” By dint of such shall we create of confusion monumental gobbledygook. Can bruthe be translated to German? Sppooooky! 10/31/2010

  140. PJohn says

    The term gobbledygook was coined by former US Representative Maury Maverick, then working for the Smaller War Plants Corporation, in a March 30, 1944 memo banning “gobbledygook language”. It was a reaction to his frustration with the “convoluted language of bureaucrats.” He made up the word as an onomatopoeic imitation of a turkey’s gobble. (As well, he added in jest “”anyone using the words activation or implementation will be shot.” A man after my own heart, he is.)

    Obviously, it seemed superbly suited by all who encountered it, and so it passed into common usage. THAT, by the way, is a colorful addition, not an ignorant diminution. Were it to in some way to be botched with something like “gobblegok”, such change would qualify not as color, but as ignorance. Why is this so hard to figure out?

  141. Trish says

    Okay my little pretties…here is my new word.
    Skippingest (superlative; definition – for adolescent children who have the record for skipping class); “You are the skippingest bunch of kids.” (usually followed by “You’all beat all”)
    I have used this for years in reference to my kids at school.
    If winningest can be a word, then so can mine.
    Consider it officially added to the English language, and let all know it is my word.
    Years from now someone will say, “How did skippingest get into the English language?” Then someone on a blog (probably not us because we will be dead by then) will say, “Trish, an Appalachian English teacher, back in the year 2010 coined the word in response to the overwhelming lack of attendance in Appalachian schools.”
    xxxooo

  142. says

    PJohn, although I tend to agree with the nature of point, I disagree with the correlation between that point and the particular case surrounding the word “snuck.” To explain:

    “Obviously, it seemed superbly suited by all who encountered it, and so it passed into common usage.”

    I feel that the term “gobbledygook” is antiquated. If not antiquated, then I’m at least averse to it because it certainly sounds like something my grandparents would say. No one in my age bracket would ever say “gobbledygook.” Which makes perfect sense! Having that sort of direct context, due to its origin, would make it a perfectly generational phrase. So… a colloquialism! By using the same logic, “snuck” should be perfectly acceptable as well. Early on in this discussion, someone mentioned that “snuck” just sounded sneakier than “sneaked.” Albeit that it’s traditionally incorrect… it still fits logically.

    How’s this for another interesting complication of the English language? I just used the word “albeit” and it flowed naturally from my mind to the page. However, as soon as I’d read over what I’d written, it occurred to me that “albeit” is as much of an acceptable contraction as “whereas” or “notwithstanding” yet writing “alright” in place of “all right” is still considered to be uneducated and incorrect. Isn’t the same principle at work here?

    Much like “gobbledygook,” use of “snuck” may well only linger for a generation before the tide of common conclusion decides that it’s not appropriate. Until then, I’ll keep using it merrily.

    Instead of educating people on a directly memorized path of which word is correct or not, I propose that it’s fundamentally more important that people are educated as to why, and how, they’re using the word. In my education, pronoun antecedent disagreements weren’t discussed until high school! We were taught to memorize which words were correct and which weren’t, but no one seemed to think it was important to discuss the relationships that our words had with one another!

    “After Judy and Karen snuck into the movie theater, she asked her if she was scared of being caught.”

    In this example (regardless of whether you substitute “sneaked” for “snuck”), the meaning is obfuscated by the ambiguity of the pronouns. Honestly, ask yourself how often you use poor pronoun associations in everyday conversation. Virtually everyone is guilty of this. It’s not technically incorrect… but it’s damned confusing. If the point of communication (and thus language) is to be understood, then simply using an alternative word form is really only a secondary or stylistic issue.

  143. PJohn says

    Trish, I knew there was something about you that I liked – I’m a WVa boy who somehow larn’t a bit. “Skippingest” shall be yours, fair lady, so long as you agree not to apply the same logic to the appearance of heavenly bodies as “risingest.” As for myself, I shall claim things less cheery, such as the “corpse” found not to be dead and who thus qualified as the breathingest….

    Hmmm – now let’s see. A corpse would be a “which,” and a breathing person a “who.” In the segue above, would then the corrected pronoun become a whooch? Might I be awarded possession?

  144. PJohn says

    Edly:
    I believe that most of this present confusion can be traced to the caliber of English spoken in the home, and to exposure – nay, devotion – to classical literature in the language. I had gained mastery of pronoun antecedents (for example) long before attending grade school. Did you learn how to diagram sentences? Do they even give youngsters such tools nowadays?

    The Judy & Karen construct is indeed nonsensical, and I agree wholeheartedly that such are at best distressing.

    “Gobbledygook” antiquated? Surely you jest. The fact that you’d not say it hardly qualifies it as unuseful, but does suggest a certain naivete about yourself, particularly taken in conjunction with your somewhat supercilious remark about your grandparents. May your lifelong pursuit of maturity go just snuckingly.

  145. Donna Lee says

    I sure loved diagramming sentences ~ It helped to make sense of it all. Some of my classmates HATED it, and I suppose that’s because it wasn’t easy for them. Naturally, the things we learned in school that were difficult to grasp were those we shunned … but there was no better feeling than acquiring an understanding of something that had previously stymied us!

  146. says

    Watching CSI:NY just now, 1330 on 04 Nov 10, one of the characters said “I snuck in…”
    Point being that as snuck grows in usage it will eventually replace sneaked, which will first just sound odd, then will be archaic. How long will this take? It’s hard to say, but fighting back against it may slow the use of snuck down and make both acceptable use for quite some time.
    “Snuck” sneaked into the language, and I for one am happy to have it. In these economically tight times, think how much could be saved in ink alone by using a word with five characters rather than seven.

  147. says

    Oops! @Trish, I like ‘skippingest” but I thought you were going to use it to describe the really flat stones that skipped the most times across the pond, as in “This stones are the skippingest stones I’ve ever found.” Rather like slipperiest.

  148. PJohn says

    Think how much time and ink could be saved if we just burned our libraries and relied on hope and charity.

  149. Mark says

    Well I for one, will continue to fight for sneaked. I’ve read the entire post and all the updates. So I understand the argument that language evolves. Like using “aint” in a song, instead of “isn’t”, because it’s one syllable and rhymes easier. Or for words that are created to address new inventions and situations, like the internet. But sneaked/snuck isn’t one of those.

    What about the James Bond theme, “Nobody Does it Better”? The lyrics say, “nobody does it half as good as you”, instead of “well”. They are both four letter words and neither is used in rhyme, so why did the writer do it? It just bugs the hell out of me!!

    There was a Twilight Zone episode a few years ago that dealt with language. Not the original series, but the one in the 80′s. In this episode, the wife asks her husband if he wants dinosaur for breakfast. He tells her this is not the proper word, but she just shrugs it off. By night, the entire language has changed, so he has to read a children’s primer to relearn the language. Every time I witness a word that “evolves” I think of that episode and hope that doesn’t happen here!

  150. Donna Lee says

    I’m with you, Mark — We shall fight the good fight! All I can say is that I had to use WD-40 on one of the doors in my house today, because -when I opened it- it cruck terribly.

    I enjoyed the recounting of the Twilight Zone episode. I never did see the newer series, but the one that will forever stay in my mind from the original series is the one about the woman who has plastic surgery, in order to look “attractive” like the majority of her peers. Unfortunately, she is told that the surgery was a failure, and the doctor and nurses recoil at seeing her “ugliness.” When the faces of all the characters are shown at the end, the viewer sees that the woman is what we would call beautiful — It is the others who are “ugly” and monstrous-looking, by our standards. (Naturally, Rod Serling’s voice-over at the end reminded us of the adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”)

    “Nobody does it half as good as you” reminds me that no one here ever offered their opinion on MY pet-peeve lyrics, “Everything I do I do it for you.” I thought that song should have been a flop, based on the poor grammar alone!

  151. Mark says

    I agree, the words to the song, “everything I do, I do it for you” aren’t the best use of grammar. But really, what would you change it to, keeping the same meter? “All the things I do, I do them for you”, sounds weird.
    “Everything I do, they are for you”, sounds strange too. How about, “all the things I do, are be-cause of you”?

  152. Mark says

    As long as we’re talking (now) about song lyrics, what about the song “Dankeshein”. This song uses only one German word and mispronounces it. It’s pronounced “danke-schoon”, not “Danke-shane”. That scene in Ferris Buller drives me crazy!

  153. says

    Hi Mark and Donna Lee,
    I remember the original Twilight Zone episode (I saw it the first time around, so yes I’m that old) and the episode from the 80′s series. I can’t remember the title of the episode but I do remember it was based on a science fiction short story. The author was trying to show how the Tower of Babel effect would be if it happened in modern times. If you think about it, that is what we are all going through now at a slower pace. Future Shock by Alvin Toffler (1970) describes the idea. I seem to recall he was mostly talking about technology and social mores, but change in language would certainly cause the same effect. We speak the same language as Great Britain but look at the changes 200 years have made.
    I recollect the first time I came across “He got the wind up”, meaning he became suspicious and being confused because I wondered what he was doing getting ready to pitch something. You can imagine the fun Brits have when we talk of shagging flies in the infield, but my daughter-in-law from Scotland was shocked the first time she heard someone here say he fell on his fanny.
    Oh, in looking up sneaked vs snuck I ran into slinked vs slunk, and found it had gone in the opposite direction, with slunk being originally accepted form and now slinked is more acceptable. How about stink and stunk? Anyone for stinked? Sink and sunk? Skink and skunk-no, wait, those are two different critters. Better stop now.

  154. Donna Lee says

    Roger ~ “Shagging flies in the infield” — Hilarious! After living in the UK, I’ve never again used the word “fanny” ~ I cringe inside when Americans say “fanny-pack.” I call it a hip-pack, but, of course, those who don’t know the British vocabulary can hardly be blamed.

    Years ago, a British guy friend told me he’d “knock me up” for a game of tennis the next day. I knew what he meant, but I couldn’t resist playing the innocent American, and saying, “The hell you WILL!”

    Mark, in my original post, I explained what I think is incorrect grammar in the Bryan Adams song — Shouldn’t it be “Everything I do I do for you?” (without the superfluous ‘it?’) It’s like “Whatever I buy I buy for you,” over “Whatever I buy I buy it for you?” There’s no need for the “it,”
    and I don’t think there would be any place for that word in a diagram of that sentence.

    Your comments on the Danke Schoen song opens up a whole new, smelly can of worms! I know that not everyone is able to pronounce foreign words correctly, but could we at least TRY?? I live in California, where there are lovely Spanish names on our state map and our street signs, etc. I live near Mt. Diablo, and there are a zillion schools, businesses and the like in the area that use the word ‘Diablo.’ I am shocked at the number of people who call it DYE-ABB-LOW. Come on, now ~ Who doesn’t know of the Spanish word Diablo? Who doesn’t pick up on the fact that, in most languages besides ours, the vowels are “short?” A main street in our area is Ygnacio Valley Boulevard, but about 90% of the people here call it IGG-NAY-SHEE-OH Valley. Granted, that’s a tougher one, but my kids (not wanting their mother to be ‘different,’ used to ask me why I pronounced it the Spanish way (Igg-nah-see-oh) — I told them that I want to show respect for the language that adds charm to the area, and that -furthermore- we would never say GRAY-SHEE-US, instead of Gracias.

    My kids think I shouldn’t give a second thought to such things, but I reminded them of the time long ago, when I called a “grand slam” a “home run with the bases loaded, “and they laughed me out of the room (and still retell that to others, today). Whatever each of us really cares about is a little “sacred” to us. For my sons, that’s sports; for me, it’s the spoken and written word!

  155. says

    Donna Lee, I grew up in the Bay Area and lived in Walnut Creek for a couple of years. I refused to pronounce Ygnacio the non-Spanish way. Though I did finally capitulate to mispronouncing Monticello. I was a fan of the Edge of Night, set in mythical mon-ti-sell-oh, so I gave up my opposition.

  156. Adam says

    Another thing that bothers me is “ones”. I could be wrong, but I’m nearly certain “ones” is not a word. If it is, it is almost never used correctly. Especially when people say “these ones” or “those ones”. No, it’s just “these” or “those”. Or anyplace else you may see it, it can usually be worded a better way.
    Also when people answer the telephone, “It’s me.” No, “It is I.” Or if someone is asking to speak to someone else, and you are that someone else, “This is he/she.” Just my two pet-peeves.

  157. says

    Having read all the posts below, I notice a mistake that even some of the grammar pundits make frequently, so please note: In America, periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. In Britain, it’s the reverse. And, BTW, Wikipedia consistently makes this mistake. (If they are headquartered in the U.K., I suppose it’s OK.)

  158. Donna Lee says

    Hey, Judge … That is interesting! I never noticed that! Personally, I find the American way awkward, and have always WANTED to do it the other way around. Another American/British disparity is “family-oriented” vs. “family-orientated.” There’s a really interesting write-up on the two, posted “Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO – U.S.A.)” about a third of the page down, at the following link:
    http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6986

    Marcelo, I agree with your view that “It is I” is stiff and unnatural-sounding, although I do say, “This is she.” I guess we all have to draw our own lines between what we consider correct and what we consider ridiculous-sounding!

    I’ll add another commonly-used word usage that grates on me every time I hear it — THAT, instead of WHO. It seems so simple ~ a “who” is a person, and a “that” is a thing … and yet, I often hear (even from news personalities), “These are the people that were referred to.” I always think of Barbra Streisands famous song, “People.” Wouldn’t it have sounded horrible if she had sung, “People … People that love people … are the luckiest people in the world?” (Now, what I just typed fits into the realm of what I consider awkward (American) quotation rules — There should NOT be a question mark after the song lyrics, but rather after MY question, and yet the rule dictates that I put that question mark inside the quotation marks.)

    I’m wondering this, though: If we use a word like “teachers,” is “that” or “which” more acceptable, since “teacher” is a profession held by a person? In my own speech, I still use “teachers who …” Any thoughts about this? (I’m asking before I look it up on the web, which sometimes leads to even more questions, rather than clear answers.)

  159. Dave N says

    A fondt this site waal A’s tryin’ t’fahnd eht whether or not “snuck” was a gradely word. A’d sin it ont telly – written dehn on a blackbooard wi some schoo’ childer arguin’ abeht it.
    Neh, it favvers uz it’s awreet i’ America but no’ o’er here in Merry Owd England – wheer we aw speyk gradely English.
    “Snuck or Sneaked”? Nayther! Here i’ Lancashire (God’s own country), we say “snaked” -so awt lot on yer’ve getten it wrung!
    Translations from Lancashire English into lesser tongues are available on request.

  160. Donna Lee says

    Wow, Dave … This brought me back to my experience reading Train Spotting! A challenge at first, but then I sort of fell into it.

  161. Dave N says

    Thanks, Edly and Donna Lee. Nice to be appreciated! Lancashire dialect was the first English dialect I learnt ( learned?) and I was only introduced to the vastly more popular ( for some strange reason) dialect known as Queen’s English when I first attended school “monny an ‘ear sin’.”
    The old dialect is dying out, of course, but there are still pockets of resistance. Und, tha knows, we’ll feyt ont beaches, in th’ills, int fieldts un’ t’woods un’ on th’internet fot save it. We’ll ne’er surrender!
    For now, though, A think uz A’d best be snakin’ off wom. Mi tay’ll be ready, happen.

  162. Donna Lee says

    This is off the sneaked/snuck topic, but still about grammar. (There! I’ve justified my post!) I’m doing some online Christmas shopping, the t.v. is on … A local news/chat show is on, and a woman is being interviewed about some product she’s selling — I’ve lost count as to how many times she has said (and this is one of my BIGGEST peeves!), “There’s lots of different options” and “There’s so many options to choose from.”

    What EVER happened to THERE ARE?!?!? I am NOT exaggerating, when I say that I hardly EVER hear the words “there are” together!! I think I’d have to go back a few years ago, when this laziest of English grammar usage had not yet caught on, to hear people on t.v., radio and real life say, “There are a number of options …” and “Here are some books you might like.” Try listening for this (if you dare … or if you care) — You’ll be surprised. Unfortunately, I don’t even have to think about it; this kind of stuff automatically makes its way to my ears, whether I want to hear it or not!

    To those of you who are in the U.K.: Please tell me this lazy, incorrect pairing of subject and verb has not yet infected your country! End of rant. Now, back to my Christmas shopping.

  163. says

    That bugs me too. I hear most incorrect grammar effortlessly too. I find myself constantly, in my head, correcting people. Your example, and using “I” when one means “me” and vice versa, also drives me up a wall.

    But I’m still using “snuck!” ;^)

  164. Donna Lee says

    Haha! I hear you, Marcello, you snucker, you! How in the world can people say “Brenda took Jack and I out to dinner?!?” How easy is it to break that down, before you speak: “Brenda took Jack.” “Brenda took … I?!?” And yet, it’s said, this “I-speak” (Why not? Everything else is i-this and i-that, these days!), I believe, more often than ever before. I can only assume that English is not stressed in the schools, as it once was.

    It’s like anything else, I guess — To one with perfect pitch (musically) , an off-key note sounds unacceptable … and the same is true for those of us who have the equivalent of ‘perfect pitch’ with regard to grammar.

  165. says

    True. Funny, I have a dear friend who has a lazy eye. She’s worn corrective glasses since she was a child. But, when she sees someone who has a lazy eye and is not wearing corrective lenses, she gets annoyed.

    Also funny, I thought you were referring to General Hospital with your example of Brenda and Jack. I was going to correct you to let you know it’s “Jax.” Then I realized that not everyone watches American soaps.

  166. Donna Lee says

    Marcello (May I call you ‘Mar?’ -only kidding!) … Those names were actually chosen at random, but I was a Days of Our Lives fan for years, and finally abandoned it.

    Good Lord! I still have the t.v. on, and the commentator just said “Neither himself nor the police knew anything about it …” Why? WHY?!? (in my best Nancy Kerrigan voice) Really?? Himself didn’t know anything about it? Ugh. Don’t even get me started on “neither” and “nor!”

  167. Dave N says

    Marcello – I have a big problem with “snuck” – almost as big as the one I have with “brung.”
    To me, it is as silly and obviously wrong as using “twuck” instead of “tweaked” or “luck” instead of “leaked” would be.
    In fact, “snuck” seems to me to be nothing more than baby-talk that was never corrected and somehow made it into the adult word.
    Donna Lee – Too late! The education system in England ( I was going to say “the UK” – but Northern Ireland and Scotland are not as far gone!) is but a shadow of what it was. Teachers are now only semi-literate at the best. Only this week the newspapers over here highlighted a school report sent by a teacher to the parents of a pupil – it had, if I remember correctly, fifteen spelling mistakes.
    Spelling and grammar are things of the past here- not surprising really, when teachers in some schools are trying to deal with classrooms where the kids speak twenty different languages but none of them speak English.
    I am also constantly demoralised by people who do not know the difference between “their,” “there” and “they’re,” “your” and you’re” and even “has” and “as” and “of” and “have.” As in “He might of put it their” or “Your daft has a brush!”
    Ah well, best be pikin’ off. A’ve some powse fot get rid on.

  168. Bree says

    Haha, I was typing something today on Microsoft Word and I kept on typing snuck, and Word kept on giving me a red line. I kept on thinking, “Dang, what is wrong with this thing. I know for a fact that the past tense of sneak is snuck!” Then, I thought about it for a minute and sneaked just came to me. I guess I had been using snuck in my lingo so often that I just started typing it too. Personally, I don’t see a problem with it. It has become so widely used that it’s not like if I used the word snuck in an everyday conversation people wouldn’t know what I was talking about. Plus the word doesn’t make me cringe like some people… probably because I’ve heard it so often. I’m also used the word ain’t, because I was born and raised in the south and that’s pretty common down here with “us folks” :P , though not everyone. The only time ain’t gets on my nerves is when I see it used incorrectly (and in my eyes there is a correct and incorrect way to use a word that in general is incorrect :P ). To me, ain’t is a combination of the words am and not. Instead of saying, “I am not,” one would say, “I ain’t.” Even though that is improper, it serves its purpose of joining the two words to me. But when it’s used in a, “That ain’t…” sense, it annoys me. It should be, “That isn’t,” as in, “That is not…” If there is already a contraction for it, why use ain’t?

  169. Donna Lee says

    Dave ~ I’m with you … To me, ‘snuck’ sounds on a par with ‘bisgetti’ (for spaghetti). Thanks for bursting my bubble about English education (boo hoo) … I lived there in the mid-’90s, and I was struck with how much more articulate my son’s English friends were than their American counterparts — and these were street-wise skateboarders (although they WERE a tremendously varied group; one was the son of an MP). Their vocabulary knowledge was so much better ~ After all, the English have always had a more sophisticated use of words, in my opinion. My son has good English skills (Thank goodness!) — He probably couldn’t have escaped having such, due to a combination of being mothered by an English-Nazi like me (okay, should be ‘like I,’ with the ‘am’ unsaid, but one makes allowances when speaking, so as not to sound like a complete bore) — and, I believe, having lived in England.

    I used to get a kick out of the MIND THE GAP signs (and others) — They were so eloquently put … I would make up would-be American English equivalents, such as LOOK OUT FOR THE HOLE!

    One memory I will forever hold dear was of an encounter during the Christmas holidays. I was in a big book store in London, and shoppers were shoulder-to-shoulder, trying to maneuver through the aisles. At one point, we were almost at a complete standstill, and a woman moving in the opposite direction (inches away from me) was pushing a baby in a stroller and holding many shopping bags, when the baby began to cry. Our eyes met, and we both had wan smiles on our faces. (Now, cut to my imagined, American equivalent of this, which might include a shopper saying loudly, “Oh, for God’s sake! Can we get moving, people?!?”) In my real-life experience, the young mother said, softly, “It’s all so bewildering, isn’t it??” I have always loved the Brits, but that made me love them even more!

  170. Dave N says

    Donna Lee – A Florida girl spent a couple of years in school over here and she and my daughter became very good friends. She went back to the US and I dread to think what her American friends made of the English swear words and insults she had picked up!”Knob-head!” was perhaps her favourite.
    One of the funniest things I ever heard her say was when on one bright but freezing January morning, she declared – “What’s wrong with the sun over here? It doesn’t give off any heat…all it does is hurt your eyes!”
    We had some relatives from the US over here a few months ago and we went to Liverpool ( all big Beatles’ fans) for the day. The teenage son amused us all by reading from a ‘Teach Yourself Scouse’ book that he bought at the Maritime Museum – where incidentally, we found photos and the manifest of the ship that took their great-grandfather to Philadelphia 90 years ago! (He’s on the passenger list!)
    Another pet hate, by the way, is people saying “he was sat” instead of “he was sitting.” It drives me nuts! BBC newsreaders do it. I’ve even caught my wife doing it!
    Now a question before I go – did you figure out what “A’ve some powse fot get rid on” means?

  171. says

    I’m an American so to the word “sneaked” literally pains me. I grew up with Children’s stories and books that had “Snuck”. Not until I started typing and seeing spell check tell that this word was wrong did I ever even think to find out why.
    Mock my words, Snuck will be a “real” word in less then 5 years and I’ll no longer have to see this ridiculous red line every time I type it.

  172. says

    Read “Tilt A Whirl” and “Mad Mouse” over the last week, both by Chris Grabenstein,published in ’05 and ’06. Snuck was his usage in both.

  173. Dave N says

    Chokehold – You carry on saying what you want but “stick” isn’t pronounced the same as “sneak,” is it? Nor does it follow the same pattern. Flick does not become “fluck” and prick does not become “pruck” either. My problem is that “snuck” has recently sneaked across the Atlantic and last week appeared on a British children’s TV show and was accepted without comment as if it was a real word. We have had a lot of welcome imports from the US over the years but this is not one of them.
    Yet – I have no intention of mocking your words. You didn’t mean “Mark my words,” did you? I do hope your use of “mock” is not another made-up Americanism derived from baby-talk!

  174. Donna Lee says

    And yet, “Yet” … I wish that red line would appear when people write “Where’s the party at?” and “She gave the gift to Suzie and I.” Actually, I REALLY wish that when people say such things out loud, an unseen grammar-check would give them a small electric shock (sort of like a no-bark dog collar). Wow! I may have just hatched my first idea for an invention — Grammar-Correct Collars for people!! OMG ~ I’m going to be a millionaire!!! (Oh, wait a minute … The only people who would buy those would be people who care, and -come to think of it- there don’t seem to be many of those, so … I guess I should ‘hold up’ on my invention! Darn it! I was already $pending that money!!)

  175. Son of a Harvard grad says

    It’s been several months since I posted my little rant about taking yourself too seriously… or the language, for that matter. I must say it amuses me to no end to see people who claim to “know better” making all sorts of mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and even spelling (according to their own tomes of “proper” English rules), while calling everyone else lazy for wanting to use “snuck” instead of “sneaked.”

    ***note: it bugs me that, as I write this, there is a red wiggly line under “snuck”***

    Again I say, don’t rant about something that you do yourself. And trust me… you DO actually do it yourself.

    As for the demographics someone inquired about, I am 43. My father is 78. We both were born and raised in Massachusetts. We both like the word “snuck” and use it regularly. We both know it is not the “correct” word. We think that people who say this is lazy are full of themselves. To ignore the benefit of a word, simply because you were taught it was wrong, is true ignorance.

    What are the rules for English? Which out-dated set of standards are you using? You must realize that the set you use, no matter which set it is, was not always correct. Furthermore, if you have any intelligence at all, you will admit that the most current standard will not be current soon. Just look at the inclusion of “irregardless” and “d’oh” in modern dictionaries. Just as you say things now that your grandparents would have admonished, so will your children admonish their grandchildren for saying (or writing) “snook” instead of “snuck.” Sneaked won’t even be in the argument.

    Danny,
    Could you please change the last line of your spam warning/disclaimer from “Are you feeling lucky?” to, “‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?” Thanks. :)

  176. Son of a Harvard grad says

    I almost forgot… don’t bother correcting anything above. I only pretend to know everything about grammar, punctuation, and spelling. And as I said before, it bugs me when people try to correct me and end up correcting me incorrectly.

    Also, I meant to mention the tutus. If they made noise, would you then have to toot two tutus, too. Toodles.

  177. Donna Lee says

    @Son of a Harvard grad (and, good for you!) … It appears to me that it is YOU who is taking these comments (and this subject) a bit too seriously. How adorably condescending that you are “amused” that people are still posting here, adding two cents here and there, on a subject that interests them. This is like any other discussion or set of comments: Those who are interested comment on the subject. The sports-loving men in my family are very vocal, when they hear a friend “get the stats wrong” or express an opinion that differs from theirs about a certain player. It’s called a discussion. Sure, there are some who claim to know more than the others … and, it will always be thus.

    I, for one, comment on many sites and forums that interest me. And, there are always the “haters,” who let those participating know how trivial their opinions are. As the SNL spoofers of The View’s Joy Behar would say, “So what. Who cares?” If you’re so upset, don’t bother to check out the sites that offend your sensibilities.

  178. says

    Donna Lee, your reference to your sports-loving men reminded me of how passionate and vociferous soap opera fans are. I’m a HUGE, lifelong fan of several daytime dramas and we get furious when new writers change the essence of a character or a new actor replacing an existing character just doesn’t click with us. You should see some of the fiery discussions we have on soap forums!

    Or would that be fori?

  179. Son of a Harvard grad says

    Appearances can be deceiving. My amusement was over people correcting others, while making mistakes themselves, and being somewhat insulting. I find that hypocritical. For example, you accuse me of being condescending, as if that is automatically something is wrong and should be avoided, and yet you are horribly condescending in the way you point it out. For the record, I was being condescending in much the way many other posters were (my intent was to have my condescending tone point their condescension out), but without being hypocritical at the same time. Hypocrisy isn’t just a river in Egypt you know. Ok, so it’s not a river, but I’m sure my point is clear (mind you, my original point wasn’t, so maybe I’m wrong).

    Allow me to be clear… I find it amusing that, while someone declares their steadfast belief that you are stupid if you make mistakes, that same person will make several mistakes including, in some cases, the very mistake they are complaining about. My point is that individuals who reside in domiciles of transparent materials, should, under no circumstances, hurtle earthen objects… oh… and that they, and you, should get over it.

  180. Son of a Harvard grad says

    The above probably should have “@Donna Lee” in front of it. Forgive my internet etiquette faux pas.

  181. Amy says

    Dude! You ROCK! You wrote a fun and informative explanation! I just had the same quandary (snuck vs. sneaked) and you saved me a TON of time looking for an explanation. Thank you!

  182. Trish says

    GOOD GRIEF! Allya’ll need to take a chill pill.
    xxxooo

    P.S. We were studying irregular verbs the other day in class (large list from grammar book), and I wrote “sneak” on the board and asked them, “Why is it not on the list?” {Blank stares} It is not on the list BECAUSE IT IS NOT AN IRREGULAR VERB! You just need to add “ed” to the end of it to form past and past participle. Everybody said that “sneaked” sounded strange. SIGH… (I guess I just need to give it up)

  183. Marie says

    I’m just forteen so I can’t really claim to be an expert on these things. I’m just wondering how much fun Dr. Seuss would be if he stuck to all the rules. I know the existence of Lewis Carrol’s “The Jabberwocky” couldn’t possibly be even acknowledged by the grammatically anal.

    What kind of word is vorpal? That’s just it, it isn’t a word but when you read the poem you have so much fun wondering. Sure he could have used dangerous or deadly, that would be “correct” but then your imagination is left dormant.

    If exploring beyond the boundaries of the conventional is considered “ignorance,” then I’m ALL for it!!!!

    Just an uffish thought. :)

  184. Dave N says

    Marie – When the great day comes, Dr Seuss will join the Koran on a bonfire of books that harm children.

  185. Trish says

    I am just glad that a fourteen-year-old is reading this blog. Glory, Glory, hallelujah. There is hope for the world.
    P.S. Dave, Please tell me you are joking…right?

  186. Malaysian laugh-all-you-want says

    First of all, thanks for your post. English is my first language, but I speak two other languages and one extra dialect, coming from a multiracial country (multilingual as well).

    The point is, I felt that poetry is a whole new different level. Poets have some weird thing (okay, it’s weird to me because I don’t quite understand it) they call poetic license, where they are allowed to modify some words to facilitate for rhyming and the like (I was never into poetry, but reading it, I like)…

    And, as for snuck and sneaked, the post was informative, but I felt that both had the same meaning and should be interchangeable by now. But, alas, that’s not the way the world thinks… So, I shall step down, and let the others do the thinking, and still allow room for both “snuck” as well as “sneaked” and screw (forgive my usage of the word) any spell-check. After all, the last word they didn’t accept was IMMUNOSUPPRESSANT. I know I did not spell it wrongly, but still… It’s a nightmare. Who even regulates the spell-check anyway? Is it even updated? Isn’t that what we should be considering?

    From a fellow Malaysian, not spamming… Hope you don’t overdo this debate…

    I feel extremely sorry if I am disturbing some months-old conversation that somehow slipped off my radar. Seriously, I wanted to find the past participle of “sneak” and that is what I found. Two different words, and I’m accepting both…

    As for contractions, by the way, I’m of the somewhat new generation (I’m just a teenager), and I feel that contractions should be used based on the individual. But, I’m not too sure how to put this. Contractions are just different. It is used primarily in speech. But, when we put what we think in black and white, there goes all our contractions as well. So, if I’m to sit for some major examination where it has been made clear that I am not to use any contractions, I guess I’ll just refrain.

    And, although my argument may be flawed, or even with minor grammatical errors, I am open to all comments pertaining to the topic and not grammar lessons. I am convinced of my mother’s teachings, and as said earlier “snuck” and “sneaked” are both as proper as can be to my ears…

    That’s all I have to say, for now. :)

  187. Bob Roalfe says

    Wow!! English is really a very messy language. However, there are some guidelines. First, there are regular and irregular verbs. Although there are many irregular verbs in English, verbs should be considered regular until proved (proven) irregular. Sneak is a regular verb, and it’s parts are: sneak, sneaked, sneaked. It follows the form of creak, leak, peak, wreak, streak, etc. All of these words form both their past tenses and past participles by the simple addition of -ed. Rhyming words peek and reek are also regular. (Seek, however, is irregular.) One would not say, for example; ” yesterday we had a flood because the pipe luck,” or, “last week the temperature puck at 110 degrees.” Also, if one takes the simplest -uck words – buck, duck, fuck, luck, muck, puck, suck and tuck, one discovers that they are not the past tense or past participle forms of bick, dick, fick, lick, mick, sick, pick or tick. So, please do not use. “snuck.”

  188. birdmanicx says

    The solution to all the debate: stick with snuck b4 ur steak gets stuck…or should that be ur snake gets stuck? I’m no plumber.

  189. Defenseman25 says

    Just had to jump in here. Of course it is “sneaked”! Consider the verb to peak as in “he peaked around the corner to see if it was clear”. Even as a hockey player I find it absurd to say “He puck around the corner…” or how about “with the playoffs just a week away, we peaked just at the right time”. Now consider the alternative!

  190. Son of a Harvard English grad says

    @Def

    I’m trying to think of a way to word the beginning and the end of the sentence that would include, “he peaked around the corner to see if it was clear,” but I need more time. “He peeked around the corner…” is what I assume you were trying to say.

    Still, going on your distaste for “snuck,” why don’t you breaked something or sticked something, and do things get stacked simply because “stuck” was already in use?

    Please keep in mind that the above was written in a tongue-in-chuck kind of way. :P

  191. Tammy says

    I thinked about this and what I thunk was that English is a language full of rules created by chance. Like many manmade rules in life (vs physics) they can change, and unlike driving on the wrong side of the road, few are bound to get seriously hurt by the use of snuck. So I say if you like snuck then have at it, I know I will.

  192. AJ says


    You couldn’t think of any similar examples?
    Really?
    Not even “streak”, which becomes “struck”?
    It’s a perfect, rhyming example!

    Also, “stick”, which becomes “stuck” is pretty close, and there are other words that follow similar patterns, such as “swim”, which, in its perfect tenses, becomes “swum”.

  193. says

    I think “struck” is past tense of “strike.” “Streak” becomes “streaked,” if I’m correct. But the point is, there are lots of irregular verbs in our language, and it’s just an arbitrary decision by someone like Merriam Webster that makes one way acceptable and the other not.

  194. Crystal says

    With regard to “Englishman January 19, 2010 at 3:56 am

    P.S. you may be totting up my mistakes while you are reading this, if so i do not care, i do not profess to being a scholar, nevertheless, i am English and detest your bastardisation of “our” spoken word.”

    Taking into consideration that we Americans are the bastardised refugees of so many foreign lands, perhaps all of the “English” scholars of the world should be thankful we have not created a new language incorporating all of our native languages into one inaudible clusterfRuck. (giggles softly as you cringe) Furthermore, to all of the British/English, there is a reason so many of the worlds people make it a point to make the distinction between “American English” and “British English”. In North America the language of the upper class (ruling class) englishmen determined the direction of “our” countries language, as is a general rule of all languages. Since the dispersion of wealth and influence the language has changed with the infusion of varying cultural imprints. If you would like to DETEST the bastardisation of your spoken word look no further than your own people. We North Americans, while our language has it’s roots in British/English as yours does in Scandanavian, Hebrew, and Germanic, we speak a language that we will continue to ADAPT (not bastardise) to suit the diversity of our people. You chose to change the title of your language to English as opposed to calling it “Scandabrewmanic” or some variation of this alluding to the history of the language. We chose to keep it simple and leave the name of the language as something that will pay homage to it’s ancestry and thus “American English” was born. While our language is disparate from “British English” the use of “detest” and “bastardised” together expresses a very harsh tone which is uncalled-for. Before you make reference to “our” spoken word please research and find out that English was not the first language of the world. “Your” spoken word is a bastardised version of someone elses spoken word as I am sure there spoken word was as well.

    With that I would like to say thank you to the Englishmen for the basis of a good language and fRuck off to all those who choose to hate on “Americans”.

    p.s. You just had your pretentiousness shutdown by a public school educated housewife from Kentucky located in North America. Since I know that it burns, you can stick that in your pipe and smoke it BIGOT.

  195. Trish says

    All’ya’ll crack me up; there is no need to get ugly about it. I am over this sneaked/snuck discussion my darlings. Let us talk about something else. Any suggestions?
    xxxooo
    Trish

  196. Mark says

    I don’t know what to say Crystal. Why all this vitriol at a posting that’s over a year old? I read the original post several times and I can’t see that he’s a bigot. Then again, when I went back to the start of this thread, I saw a posting written in 2006, then comments starting late in 2010, so perhaps I’m missing something because I couldn’t find anything dated 1/19/2010

    Are you upset because the original post asks some questions about language? I am just trying to figure out why you feel so threatened by this “Englishman” (he says he grew up in California, so how do you know he’s English?). I gather that you think “our” language is superior because it is constantly being adapted by the masses, as opposed to the language spoken in the UK? I would venture to say that if you skim through a dictionary there, you will find new words that have found there way into common use, the same as we have here.

  197. says

    While I agree that Crystal’s personal attack was uncalled for (we grammarians are a passionate lot, aren’t we?), I agree that the comment that there is no such thing as British English, American English, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, etc. English (and I’m not sure it was Englishman who made that statement) is ludicrous.

    But, chill y’all. It’s a disagreement about common usage of language. There will always be sticklers for perfectly proper language (or anything, for that matter) and those of us who realize that “proper” is in the eye of the beholder, rules are often arbitrary and made by people/institutions who don’t represent the will of the people, dogma is a way of avoiding responsibility for individual thought, we each have our own pet peeves, and–in the grand scheme of things–picayune disagreements like this are insignificant.

  198. Mark says

    Okay, I just found the original posting that Crystal was referring to. I find it confusing that each page of postings begins with number 1. It would make more sense to me if the comments were say, 1-100 on the first page, 101-200 on the second page etc. For some reason, I couldn’t see the first page when I was going back through the rants.

    That being said, I think the French are much more prone to outrage of the dilution or change of their language than the English. But maybe we just expect attitude from them. I agree with Trish. It’s pretty clear from the hundreds of posts here, that people either prefer “snuck” or “sneaked” and no amount of persuasion from either side is going to change that. So let’s all just agree to disagree, okay?

  199. Donna Lee says

    Marcello ~ I think you put that very well. Life and death this is NOT, but we have our opinions (and some are very strong ones), and good for us! The sneak/snuck issue isn’t that important to me — I guess it’s just emblematic of what I perceive as the “bastardization” of the language, the most offensive (to me) being, “Where are the kids at?” I’ll be really disappointed if the overwhelmingly frequent usage of this “error” is eventually accepted. Oh well — I DO love a good argument, but I can’t see insulting to others over it.

    Oh! I just read Trish’s suggestion about switching topics — What about what I just touched upon here? Where are you guys AT on that grammar issue?

  200. Ron says

    The important thing to remember is that American “English” can be classed as a foreign language and people in the US can use it as they like. However, the Queen’s english as it is often described in the UK, does not contain the word “snuck”. It also does not contain the word ” lucked”. There is no verb “to luck” but “I have lucked out” is in common usage in the US. Each to their own, but please do not try to tell us how to suck eggs.

  201. Mark says

    Now that we have covered this subject infinitum, I’d like to propose a new one. I was at a party this past weekend and a French couple were speaking to their friends in their native language. Later, we were discussing art and one of them said something to the effect of, “it’s an expression we have that doesn’t translate to English”. Another friend of mine, who is a native of German recently told me he misses German because it’s a much richer language.

    What I would say to BOTH these people, is I think they are being naive and self indulgent. English, the language of Shakespeare, a language derived from German, Latin and French isn’t rich enough? Would people in different societies really have such disparate life experiences that an expression in one language would exist in one country, but not in another? What gaul, what chutzpa, to suggest such a thing!

    Now these people might not be AWARE of the vast breadth of English, because most people only use about 10,000 words in their daily vocabulary. German is certainly PRECISE, for example, you don’t say “see you later” when you hang up the phone, because you aren’t actually seeing each other and since every word is masculine or feminine, there is more to remember, but are these languages really “more complete” than English?

  202. says

    Ron, if you were looking to cause a giant piling on of responses, I’m sure you’ll get it — though I’d hope people will ignore your comments and coming from a jingoist moron.

    If anyone really needs a UK vs US English battle, here’s a nice Daily Mail article. It’s an appropriate place for that:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1284254/Britain-declares-war-words-snuck-skedule-.html

    The Mail, and appropriate place for such garbage, seems unaware of how many Britishism have snuck into American English. 20 years ago, no one — and I mean no one, talked about chatting up. Now, it’s commonplace — as is talk of baby “bumps.” Hollywood, in particular with many British writers.

    The important thing to remember is that UK English can be classified as a foreign language. To an American English speaker (and heck, Indian English, Canadian English, Australian English, etc. etc.), it has many words and spellings that can seem cryptic and wrong.

    Yeah, that sounds as stupid as written the other way around.

  203. Trish says

    Danny,
    I read the Daily Mail article. I never knew that “gotten” as past participle is archaic! I use it all the time. I have gotten used to saying it because it is still listed in American grammar books as acceptable past participle for the base get. Whenever I teach Shakespeare, I always review archaic words found in a particular play; I have noticed that I still use a lot of them (mainly because I have heard my mom use them). Hmmmm. Mark me! I think this should be our new direction for this blog (archaic words that should come back). What do you think? Thanks for posting the article link. I have learned something new today.
    xxxooo

  204. Dave N says

    Trish -The use of “gotten” as the past participle of “got” jars on my ears because, as a speaker of Lancashire dialect, I know it should be “getten.”
    And that means that the past participle of forgot should of course, be “forgetten.”
    Finding archaic words in Shakespeare etc that are still used in dialect is a joy. For instance, finding “nesh” in Gawain and the Green Knight made my day.
    Words that should make a comeback? How about “nast”? I think it is strange that we still have “nasty” but the noun has all but disappeared. My uncle ( a coal miner) would say of some worthless person – “I wouldn’t give him the nast from behind me fingernails.”
    BTW – I remember reading a book years ago where the author had discovered a shepherd on the Yorkshire Moors who, without even realising that he was doing it, counted his sheep in Old Norse.

  205. Son of a Harvard English grad says

    Once upon a time, there was a language. It was a great language that was made up of many different languages. Over many years, this great language was honed into a new version of the original language.

    Then, the people that spoke that great language decided that they all couldn’t get along. One group stayed at the birthplace of the great language, and the other group moved to a new place. At that point, both groups began changing this great language. One group began to change it in one way, and the other group began changing it in a another way. Eventually, they became two distinctly different dialects, not just from each other, but from the language they grew out of as well.

    From then on, the more grumpy ones argued whos version was the real language, even though they all knew that neither was. The grumpy ones would argue about who’s language was most like the language they both split from. The grumpy ones would argue about who’s colloquialisms were better. The grumpy ones would argue about how to pronounce words, how to spell them, and even how to create new words when needed.

    Finally, as more ways of communicating with each other became available, the two dialects began to merge, much to the chagrin of the grumpy ones. Both groups started using words from both dialects. This aggravated the more grumpy ones, but most members of both groups didn’t care.

    In the end, although the two dialects are still very different, and although they will never be like that original great language again, everyone can see that the two dialects are merging now. The two dialects will probably meld into a new and even greater language. If one looks close enough, anyone can see it. Even the grumpy ones.

  206. says

    Son of a Harvard English grad, if I could “like” this post, I would.

    And, I guess I’m a tiny bit grumpy on some issues. “Then, the people *that* spoke…” made me bristle. But, as I’ve mentioned before, we all pick and choose which improper use of language bothers us and which do not.

  207. Son of a Harvard English grad says

    Trish,

    Anyone can be a grumpy one. All one needs to do to qualify for this group is to have a slightly higher opinion of one’s self than is deserved and a slightly lower opinion of everyone else than is deserved. There are other ways to qualify as a grumpy one, but that would take forever to explain.

    Marcello,

    I rarely catch all of my own mistakes. I was taught that you cannot edit your own work, and my last post proves that point. Please, forgive me.

    Also… Grumpy on some issues or grumpy about some issues? ;)

  208. says

    Well, I have an exceedingly high opinion of myself and I know that most people are beneath me, but anyone who knows me would say I’m anything but grumpy. Ornery, more like.

    I am a tad grumpy on, over, under, and about some issues. Ha!

  209. says

    Actually, that’s a good point though, one that would grate on that Daily Mail writer: “what are your thoughts *on* that subject?” I’m sure that’s unacceptable to the grumpy crowd.

    Also, if I begin a sentence with “actually” and end with “though,” is that redundant and unnecessary? Anyone who spends any time on such questions in an other-than-academic (or philosophical) discussion must find it particularly difficult to get through each day.

  210. Keith says

    One of the things I learned living in a foreign country was – When in Rome do as the Romans do. If you want people to understand you and accept you as a part of their society you need to talk like they do. It doesn’t matter what is correct. You can tell everyone else they are wrong but in the end it just makes you look crazy. Like many of the points from above – english changes and in different geographical area’s of this big world the same english language is spoken and written differently, that doesn’t make it wrong. If you are living in Texas talk like a Texan. If you are living in the Bayou talk like a Cajun. It won’t ruin your understanding of english and if you ever move somewhere else you can forget just as quick while you learn new ways to talk in your new location.

    My brother in law married a girl from Canada and lives here in the united states and one of their kids said something that didn’t make sense in the States or Canada and he said “thats the way I say it” because he was too lazy to pronounce it in a correct way. His mother from Canada is worried she will lose her identity or sound funny when she returns for a visit once a year but in the mean time she sounds funny to everyone here all year.

    So if your goal is to come off as a snob then continue to talk like you always have but if your goal is to make new friends and enjoy the culture of the area you live in start talking like the people around you. It took a lot of practice and effort to get rid of my “gringo accent” while I was in South America but it was worth the effort because people quit asking me to repeat or explain myself and I made friends easier than before. I still make mistakes and my accent still comes out at times but the little bit of effort at the beginning made a huge difference. People would ask me what my other american friends had just said and it would frustrate them because nobody understood them.

    Where I live most people use snuck so I’m stuck with snuck for now but if I ever move and its different there you can bet I will change to sound like everyone else. Not because I don’t want to be unique or different but because it is better to be understood and not be ridiculed.

    The internet brings all of these different world cultures closer than we would otherwise so maybe one day we will all decide on a right way but until then let’s just enjoy the differences.

  211. Lil Bizkit says

    wit all da changes wit english werds, we all gunna b tlkn reel badlyful. if we aint stop all da changes, yall gun b tlkn like dis in da future. We gadda puts an end to da commonly mispronounced and misused words of the English language. Sorry, I couldn’t keep that up forever. I hope that the English never gets that bad.

  212. Anita says

    In this quotation from the main article, the tense of the last example should be future perfect tense, not present perfect:

    If you are like me and prefer to treat sneaked as a irregular verb, then forget that -ed suffix and use snuck:

    He snuck into the room. (past tense)
    He has snuck into the room. (present perfect tense)
    He had snuck into the room, and then he was caught. (past perfect tense)
    He will have snuck into the room, before stealing the money. (present perfect tense)

  213. Dave N says

    Anita -

    The wooden floor cruck as he snuck into the room.
    The wooden floor has cruck as he snuck into the room.
    He had snuck into the room and he was cuft.
    He will have snuck into the room before stofling the money.

    Makes no sense, does it? Neither does snuck.

  214. William Vogel says

    What is this ENDLESS brouhaha over snuck versus sneaked? Even my computer is squiggly-red-lining snuck and I find that ignorant, considering.
    But my point is how apparently there is way more interest in this than I would ever have expected. (When) Will it end?

  215. Son of a Harvard English grad says

    Dave,

    Actually, all of those sentences make perfect sense. Snuck has been defined repeatedly in this article and it’s forum posts. Cruck (and yes, I’m just assuming here) is replacing creaked. Cuft (again, I assume) is replacing cuffed. Stofling (although this one is the most odd to me) is replacing stealing (I think). I might be wrong about some of these, but that would only be due to your lack of defining them beyond a Carroll-esque point.

    The fact is that words only make full sense once you define them. Snuck has a working definition and makes perfect sense.

    William,

    No. It will never end.

  216. Donna Lee says

    William ~ I understand your questions. What I don’t really “get” is why you care … or, more specifically, why you care that WE care.  

    We’re just minding our own business, chatting now and then about something we care to discuss, for whatever reason. You have every right to ask why we care to do so, but if you think (as your post seems to imply) that our topic of conversation is one you don’t consider worthwhile, why even bother to comment?  That would seem to be similar to my going onto a sports site to ask posters there why they continually discuss sports … or visiting a political blog to ask other visitors there why they have an interest in politics.

    I can only answer your questions for myself.  I’m active on the computer in many different ways — I love to write (which might provide a hint as to why grammar is not unimportant to me); I love photography, and have thousands of photos on my computer; I am an enthusiastic email correspondent with family and friends.   Other interest include politics, current rock and pop music, cooking, fashion, family ancestry and so on.  Every few months or so, I re-visit this blog to read the latest contributions.  Most posters seem intelligent, and I enjoy reading their various points of view. The sneaked/snuck issue is an interesting one to me, because it seems to be a “grey area,” unlike one that is (for the moment, thankfully) more obvious, such as “Where are you?” being correct, and “Where are you at?” being incorrect.

    When I first came across this blog, I jumped in for a bit of a laugh, liking the subject and appreciating the lighthearted tone (which still exists, except when some take it more seriously than others.  The world is full of serious issues, and it’s refreshing to communicate with other, intelligent people about something that interests me.  We’re reminded daily of the “harsh realities” of life, through personal experience and the media.  I, personally, just wrote a “remembrance” tribute for the leaflet at the memorial service for a dear extended family member.  I thought I would “escape” for a few minutes by visiting this silly, ongoing marathon of contributions by interesting strangers.

    This, then, is one person’s answer to the questions you posed.

  217. Dave N says

    I am quite happy to let you Americans go on using your own peculiar strain of English. What I am bothered about is the fact that these strange Americanisms are increasingly being accepted as correct over here in the UK. British children are being exposed to this unwanted American import which is increasingly heard on British television – from the mouths of British TV presenters.
    If God had wanted the English to say “snuck” he wouldn’t have put the Atlantic between the UK and the USA, now would he?

  218. Son of a Harvard English grad says

    Dave,

    And we are quite happy to let you go on using your own peculiar strain of English. It’s not like either side of the pond is using the same language that both of our strains come from. In fact, as I may have stated before, the closest strain to that original language is used by an ever-shrinking portion of the populace in Boston, Massachusetts (or so the article I read claimed).

    What strikes me as odd is your insistence that “these strange Americanisms” are not welcome in the UK even though you point out, quite ironically, that everyone over there (except you of course) seems to be using them without any issue at all.

    If God hadn’t wanted the English to say “snuck” he wouldn’t have allowed communication across the Atlantic between the UK and the USA, now would he?

  219. says

    Dave, in the US, people talk about “baby bumps” and “chatting people up” and all types of things that are Britishism.

    It goes both ways, I can assure you. It’s also not harmful, given I have two children who are half-American and half-British. They merrily speak English both UK/US and mixed just fine.

    If God hadn’t wanted this type of mixture, to the degree he even cares about it, it wouldn’t have allowed television to have been invented. Or for people to migrate. My goodness, we wouldn’t have allowed so many different regional accents to developed within Britain itself (far more than in the US), to the degree you have a debate over whether Received Pronunciation is “correct” or not.

  220. Mark says

    Danny, Danny, Danny, you have “to children”? Don’t you mean “two children”? “regional accents to developed”? “English both both”? I don’t mean to pick (well maybe I do) but it seems to me that one of the pre requisites to entering into a discussion of grammar, is not to make grammatical mistakes in the process!

  221. Greg says

    Sorry, Mark. It’s “prerequisites.” If you can deal it, you’ve got to take it. I’ve been receiving post-updates on this topic for over a year now. In all honesty, snuck is more commonly recognized (in the US). This does not make it “correct,” but there are far worse issues at hand here. In this bastardized acronym-text-world of ours, can we at least agree to fight “LOLs” and “BRBs” with as much, if not more, vehemence as we do here? People like pedantic grammar nazis about as much as they do granolas and hipsters. Please, pick your battles wisely, friends.

  222. says

    Yes, Mark, two. And I don’t mean to pick, but you’re not talking about grammatical errors I made but rather typos. I’ll fix them to make you happy. And, I think given your space bar goof, you understand these are pretty easy to do.

  223. says

    Danny, Mark’s typo was far more acceptable and understandable than your typoS. I had to double check prerequisites. Hyphenated? One word? Not something one comes across to often in common writing. However, “to” vs. “two,” placing a past participle after “to,” and “both both” just shows laziness, stupidity, or ignorance. Sorry.

  224. says

    Actually, it shows that I rushed responding to a comment this morning when getting up.

    But you know, I think all the comments that need to happen on this post are done, so I’m closing them.