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” used as slang by people who also said, “The kids had their pitchers took at school today” or "I seen him do it" to me 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, “snuck” is an irregular verb form that originated in the late 19th century dialect, but it is now listed as the “simple past tense and past participle of sneak.” Merriam-Webster’s Etymology states: 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?
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently 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.