Sneaky Snuck

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.detective

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.” It’s considered the nonstandard past tense—basically meaning that “sneaked” is the preferred word-choice, but “snuck” is also acceptable.

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 http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/snuck-sneaked-in/

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’.” http://www.word-detective.com/back-c.html

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

Published in: on June 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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13 Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

We all have something that trips us up, grammar-wise, in writing, whether it’s the use of lie/lay or adding apostrophes with plurals. I want to share a wonderful resource with you, Mignon Fogerty’s GrammarGirl . Here is an article she wrote for Writers Digest, “The 13 Trickiest Grammar Hang-Ups.”

by Mignon Fogerty

I trust that you all know the difference between who and whom, and I trust that typos are the only reason you use the wrong it’s. It happens to the best of us. For most writers, if you can just maintain your focus (perhaps with caffeine and frequent breaks), you’ll get the basics right. The following problems, however, may have you scrambling for a refresher.

1. Half can be both singular and plural.

Typically, subjects and verbs agree: If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb is plural. Easy peasy. However, sentences that start with half don’t follow this rule.

Half alone is singular: My half of the pizza is pepperoni. Yet although half is the subject in a sentence such as Half of the pizzas are missing, we use a plural verb because of something called notional agreement. It simply means that although half is singular, half of the pizzas has a notion of being plural, so you use a plural verb. Follow this rule when half is the subject of a sentence: If half is followed by a singular noun, use a singular verb. If half is followed by a plural noun, use a plural verb. Half of the pepperoni is ruined, but half of the tomatoes are missing.

Compound words that start with half are quirky too. They can be open, closed or hyphenated (e.g., half note, halfhearted, half-baked). There’s no rule that applies across the board, so you’ll have to check a dictionary.

For more tips, go to the article at Writers Digest.

FANBOYS: How to Use Commas With Conjunctions

My thanks to Cherie for allowing me to share this “trick of the trade” in punctuation.

by Cherie Tucker

We all still remember those little mnemonic devices like “i before e except after c” that helped us over some of the tricky spots in our language. One I was never taught in grade school that would have helped immensely I learned only recently from a fifth-grader: FANBOYS.  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.  This trick for remembering conjunctions, those words that join things, will help you when you ask yourself, do I need a comma here?

If you have written two clauses (groups of words with subjects and verbs) that could stand alone as sentences, but you want to combine them, you join them with one of the FANBOYS.  You have created a compound sentence like this one, and compound sentences need the comma.  The comma signals to readers that what they just read is finished but that the sentence isn’t.  It also prevents misreading if there is a line break or a page turn at an awkward spot.

We drove Bill and Sam took the bus.

In this example, the reader might think that we drove both of them, but if there were a comma after Bill, even a reader with no grammatical knowledge would look to see what Sam did.

We drove Bill, and Sam took the bus.

Should you start a sentence with one of the FANBOYS?  You may if it isn’t expected or overused or in a formal document.

What you must guard against, however, is starting with one of these conjunctions and then putting the comma after it.  Writers mistakenly feel inserting a comma there creates a pregnant pause:

Not OK:  The backstroke was new to him.  Yet, he came in first.

The commas go before the FANBOYS.  The only time you want a comma after the conjunction that begins a new sentence is when there is an interruption right after it.

OK: The backstroke was new to him. Yet, to our surprise, he came in first.

There will be times when you don’t want a comma with one of the FANBOYS, of course.  It’s English after all.  But when commas serve to join what could be two stand-alone, complete sentences, commas are mandatory.  Thanks, Gracie, and thanks to your fifth-grade teacher.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.  GrammarWorks@msn.com

ONLY THE ENGLISH COULD HAVE INVENTED THIS LANGUAGE

(Note: I’ve often thought how thankful I am that I didn’t have to learn English as a second language, and my hat is off to those of you who have done so and are writing books and articles!)

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England ..
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,
grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

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Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 5:13 am  Comments (7)  
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