Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sneak vs. Snuck (and a Shout-out to Mr. Whitaker)...

One of my co-workers walked into my cube this morning and told me she's noticed a lot of people writing and saying the word "sneaked" recently. She was sure it should be "snuck" and thought I might know what's correct.

Well, of course, being a member of Mr. Cyril Whitaker's eighth grade English class in 1982 at All Saint School, I knew that the correct past tense or past participle of "sneak" is "sneaked." This was a pet peeve of Mr. Whitaker's--he thought "snuck" sounded yuck (my word, not his. I couldn't imagine him saying "yuck.")

"Snuck," it seems, is one of those slangy usages that has crept its way into the mainstream. I try not to use "snuck" (because I'm still worried about disappointing my teacher) but most everyone does and I think often, especially when writing dialog, using "sneaked" could sound weird. What say you, writers?

Oh, and Thanks Mr. Whitaker. I loved being in your English class.

15 comments:

Stace said...

There's something similar I've been wondering about too. I've noticed a lot of people saying and writing things like:

He leant on the fence.
She learnt her grammar.

To me these sound wrong. (The top one more so.) People seem to be using the past participle in favour of the simple past. Perhaps it is because in spoken English the simple past sounds more like the past participle.

Does it sound weird to you too? Or is this a 'legitimate' use of language?

Jeanie W said...

Microsoft Word's spell-checker taught me that "sneaked" was the correct form, but I never hear anyone using it. "Sneaked" sounds stilted to me when I read my WIP out loud, so I use "snuck" within dialogue.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

I agree. Snuck in dialogue. Sneaked in narration. Although I must admit to preferring dreamt over dreamed.

Steve said...

Strictly speaking, "sneaked" and "snuck" are both acceptable, according to Webster's 11. Typically, the hang-ups we maintain (like my own for preferring "different from" over "different than," for example) were just given to us in our youth, and often with extreme prejudice, so we maintain them.

-Your friendly neighborhood (former) copy editor.

Vodka Mom said...

sneaked.

ikmar said...

Althought both forms of the words are valid, snuck, leapt, et al are more likely to be used in Canada than in the U.S.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

According to the Oxford dictionary, snuck is the North American informal version of sneaked.

gael lynch said...

Here's hoping my sixth graders feel the same about me, Alice. Had one young gentleman attempt a brief escape today in the few seconds it took me to beat them all back to the classroom after lunch.

"I just snuck to the bathroom," he said. A sly smile crossed his face.

"Sneaked," I said.

"Huh?" he said.

So there you go...the future of sneaked vs. snuck. The jury's still out, I think. :)

Stace said...

I grew up in NZ and live in Australia. It's snuck down here too. Sneaked sounds plain wrong.

Becky Mushko said...

My high school English teacher insisted on sneaked, too. Plus, it sounds, well, sneakier.

In dialogue, the kids will say snuck, the educated folks (or those whose English teachers made an impression) will say sneaked, and the others can go either way.

I agree with Paul Michael Murphy. The narrator should say sneaked. I like dreamt better, too.

Chris said...

Is this the same All Saints in Cincinnati next to Moeller where I may have taken a course in Latin with Cy?

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