At times, being an English Major can be sheer torture. Listening while others butcher the English language is cruel and unusual punishment. I shudder when I hear the pompous speakers among us using me, myself, and I interchangeably. My dentist tells me I must stop grinding my teeth, but how can I when so many insist on saying I seen instead of I saw? If I hear one more person say I seen, I will not be responsible for my actions.
I have no love for that ungainly and ungrammatical word, and I cannot abide its use. Just the sound of it makes my flesh crawl. For the life of me I cannot fathom how it managed to smuggle itself into the English lexicon.
I would love to travel back in time to meet the first person to use snuck instead of sneaked as the past and past participle of sneak. No, I would not shoot him or even slap him upside the head—I’m not a violent person—but I would wash his mouth out with soap for using foul language and convince him of the error of his ways.
Snuck makes no sense when you conjugate sneak. It should be sneak, sneaks, sneaking, sneaked, has sneaked, have sneaked, and so on. Snuck doesn’t fit the pattern: sneak, sneaks, sneaking, snuck—huh? No, no, no! What happened to eaked and where did uck come from? Unfortunately, no one seems to know. Even more unfortunately, no one seems to care.
Well, I care. So, let’s conduct a little experiment, shall we? I’m going to write a short paragraph using the past tense of verbs that end in eak. I’ll write it two ways. First, I’ll write it using the standard past tense for each verb that ends with the letters eak. Next, I’ll write it using a nonstandard uck tense for each verb ending in eak. Got it?
Standard: The kitchen door hinge squeaked while she was watching her favorite TV show. She turned down the volume and peaked over her shoulder. She was sure she locked that door. The kitchen floor’s loose boards creaked ominously under the weight of someone’s feet. Her face was streaked with tears. Someone had definitely sneaked into her house. She freaked out and called 9-1-1.
Nonstandard: The kitchen door hinge squuck while she was watching her favorite TV show. She turned down the volume and puck over her shoulder. She was sure she locked that door. The kitchen floor’s loose boards cruck ominously under the weight of someone’s feet. Her face was struck with tears. Someone had definitely snuck into her house. She fruck out and called 9-1-1.
See what I mean? If none of those eak verbs are acceptable or intelligible with an uck past tense, why should any English speaking human willingly accept snuck as the past tense of sneak?
For years, the Oxford Dictionary of English stood firm against snuck. The Oxford defied the conjugationally challenged masses and defended the purity of the English language from the barbarians at the gate who would savage it. The Oxford refused admittance to snuck. Thank Heaven for the Brits.
Here in the States, the Webster Dictionary people caved early on to vulgate usage. Webster’s included snuck in its pages as the accepted past tense of sneak. For shame, Webster’s, for shame. I hope Noah Webster never suffered from motion sickness, for surely he is spinning in his grave.
Here’s how the Oxford American Dictionary explains the usage of sneaked vs. snuck.
“The traditional standard past form of sneak is sneaked (she sneaked around the corner). An alternative past form, snuck (she snuck past me), arose in the U.S. in the 19th century. Until very recently, snuck was confined to U.S. dialect use and was regarded as nonstandard, but in the last few decades its use has spread, particularly in the U.S., where it is now generally regarded as a standard alternative to sneaked. In formal contexts, however, sneaked remains the preferred form.”
I definitely prefer sneaked to snuck. I only wish I were not in the minority. I am disheartened to report that the Oxford Dictionary of English (the British version) in a recent edition sounded an alarming note in its description of usage regarding sneaked vs. snuck:
“In the Oxford Reading Programme, there are now more US citations for snuck than there are for sneaked, and there is evidence of snuck gaining ground in British English also.”
Please say it isn’t so, Oxford. After learning that snuck is gaining ground in England, I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight.
Oh, the humanity. Wasn’t including ain’t in the dictionary more than enough for the English language to bear?