Snuck Sneaked In

How did the word “snuck” sneak into the dictionary and into our “approved” form of language?

This word is one of my pet peeves, and if you are an editing client of mine, I will strongly suggest that you use the “proper” form “sneaked” unless it’s in dialogue.

I think my reaction stems from growing up in an isolated rural area where most people were not highly educated (no denigration intended—they were wonderful friends and neighbors and would do anything to help each other in times of need.

But a word like “snuck” that was used as slang by people who also said, “The kids had their pitcher took at school today,” is an indication of that same lack of education or care about proper English.

It’s like “ain’t.” That’s in the dictionary too, but it’s still not “proper” to use, except in slang dialogue.

According to wiktionary.org, “snuck” is an irregular verb form that originated in the late 19th century dialect, but is now listed as the “simple past tense and past participle of sneak.” Merriam-Webster’s Etymology: akin to Old English snIcan to sneak along, Old Norse snIkja.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on “Sentence First: An Irishman’s Blog About the English Language"

And this is a snippet from The Word Detective’s Q&A, who seems to agree with me:
“Yes, ‘snuck’ is a real word, although it has always been classified as ‘substandard English.’ ‘Snuck’ first appeared in the 19th century as a regional variant of ‘sneaked,’ and is still considered colloquial English, but is apparently gaining in respectability among literate folk. Still, ‘snuck’ is not the sort of word to use on your resume, although ‘sneaked’ is usually not a big hit on resumes either, come to think of it. In general, however, my advice is to stick with ‘sneaked.’ Unless you're talking to Elvis, of course. I happen to know he says ‘snuck’."

What are some of your “pet peeve” words that have sneaked into the English Language?

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A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

10 comments:

  1. Heidi, interesting to learn the history of 'snuck.'

    One of my 'word' pet peeves is "my bad." It's become so common place that I'm sure it'll end up in the dictionary also.

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  2. It's so true that slang words and phrases become "accepted" after hearing them for so long. Sometimes it's good, and sometimes not so much.

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  3. Soon, we will have common text shortcuts in the dictionary. LOL

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  4. I agree, Heidi. As writers we need to know the colloquial--for dialogue and stream of consciousness. But we should also know the strict rules and the first choices. Readers of this blog may be interested in browsing through my editing blog, http://thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com.

    BTW, I (especially) take exception to "snuck" when anchors on major news channels use it. What they do and say is an example for so many people.

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  5. Karen, one of the online travel sites' ads uses "my bad." I'm sure to try to appear "with it." I just find it annoying. (-:

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  6. Ah Heidi, language is always in flux. Fishes is another of those words that I always corrected my kids for using, and now I'm hearing it frequently - even by sophisticated users of English.

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    1. That's very true, and I'm sure I use language that wasn't "correct" at some time.

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  7. Heidi, bring and take are so interchangeable I think the true meaning has been lost. If I'm going to your house, I will take a dish to share, not bring! Thanks for a fun and informative post.

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  8. I cringe every time I see or hear the word "killer" used as an adjective. (Marketing experts everywhere please hold your fire.)

    I've never used "snuck" (till now), but am fine with it being a word. It's cute.

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