Snuck/ Sneaked [past tense sneak]

Nunty

Modified
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
[...] It's heard and used, but it's informal, slang, or just uneducated or illiterate. AHD did not have enough doubt about this to refer it to Usage Panel of writers, linguists, and other language commentators that it consults in questionable cases.
I'm sure all your fellow countrymen who routinely use snuck (including the ones who have answered in this thread) will be just thrilled to see themselves branded 'uneducated or illiterate', Æsop:)
<intrepidly raising my hand>

I use snuck in casual speech without feeling self-conscious or lowering the register. It would be odd for anyone to consider me uneducated, let alone illiterate.

I suggest that the difference between "informal, slang" and "uneducated, illiterate" is great enough that the four terms shouldn't be used together to describe one usage.
 
  • KHS

    Senior Member
    The COCA, 385 million words going through the present:
    627 instances of 'snuck'
    763 instances of 'sneaked'

    There is a problem with the subcorpus of the BNC I access through Brigham Young University in that it only goes through 1993. As sources show that the use of 'snuck' increases with each generation, it is unlikely that instances found there reflect modern-day usage as well for BE as the COCA does for AmE. However, its 100 million words show:
    11 instances of snuck
    132 instances of sneaked

    EDIT to show the sources for the COCA:
    The corpus contains more than 385 million words of text, including 20 million words each year from 1990-2008, and it is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts. (The most recent texts are from late 2008). The corpus will also be updated every six to nine months from this point on, and will therefore serve as a unique record of linguistic changes in American English.
     
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    Æsop

    Banned
    English--American (upstate NY)
    I'm sure all your fellow countrymen who routinely use snuck (including the ones who have answered in this thread) will be just thrilled to see themselves branded 'uneducated or illiterate', Æsop:)
    I don't want to start a flame war over this and I hereby vow not to contribute any further to this thread. I might have used it inadvertently myself in speech, just as I might have said "It's me." But if I were being careful, I would not use snuck any more than I would use brang, have went, or between he and I. It sounds illiterate and uneducated to me, and I would not expect much erudition, or even much careful language usage, from someone that I heard saying it, unless I knew that they were deliberately imitating lower-class usage. I don't encounter it often enough in careful, formal writing to associate it with elevated or formal usage.
     

    TriglavNationalPark

    Senior Member
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    Barack Obama uses "snuck" in his book, Dreams from My Father. I would argue that he's not "uneducated", "illiterate", or prone to imitate "lower class", "substandard", "ignorant", and "barbarous" usage.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    <intrepidly raising my hand>

    I suggest that the difference between "informal, slang" and "uneducated, illiterate" is great enough that the four terms shouldn't be used together to describe one usage.
    Well this seems to me to fit the situation very well.

    And if there is a "process" going one here (i.e. "sneaked" being gradually replaced by "snuck", first in AE and later in BE, or wherever) it seems to be happening despite (or because of?) the various class/education/literacy associations some people have with the word "snuck". The interesting questions are why is it happening, how fast is it happening, and how far will it go: will "snuck" ever become the form most commonly used by a majority of people? And then what will happen?

    Maybe there's something about "snuck" (having to do with class/education associations) that fits the action of sneaking in--i.e. going around the rules, entering by some route other than the one that requires money, education, or privilege? Why not use a "non-standard" verb form for a "non-standard" action? There's some literary appropriateness, perhaps, that the aforementioned Ring Lardner was on to.

    Perhaps the people who use "sneaked" are less likely to have done it.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Barack Obama uses "snuck" in his book, Dreams from My Father. I would argue that he's not "uneducated", "illiterate", or prone to imitate "lower class", "substandard", "ignorant", and "barbarous" usage.
    He may not be prone to such usages, but that hardly makes him immune to them, and other exaples of errors in his speech can easily be found. It therefore is not a good argument to say "Barack Obama said this, so then it must be right!!!"
     

    TriglavNationalPark

    Senior Member
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    He may not be prone to such usages, but that hardly makes him immune to them, and other exaples of errors in his speech can easily be found. It therefore is not a good argument to say "Barack Obama said this, so then it must be right!!!"
    Oh, I don't wish to imply that Obama's use of "snuck" makes the word either right or wrong. However, if educated people regularly use the word in writing (Obama was the first author I checked, so we can assume that many more use it as well), and if editors tend not to replace it with "sneaked", then I have a hard time accepting that "snuck" is still an example of illiterate, uneducated, or substandard use, at least in AmE.
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Oh, I don't wish to imply that Obama's use of "snuck" makes the word either right or wrong. However, if educated people regularly use the word in writing (Obama was the first author I checked, so we can assume that many more use it as well), and if editors tend not to replace it with "sneaked", then I have a hard time accepting that "snuck" is still an example of illiterate, uneducated, or substandard use, at least in AmE.
    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion. However, I am just as entitled to mine, and I do not retract a word of it. Mr. Obama is an educated man; he has degrees from Columbia College and Harvard Law School. For all that, though, one might note, for example, the occasion he referred to Rev. Jeremiah Wright as "somebody who had married Michelle and I", which is an error a high-school student should recognize. I will also point out to you that if one wants to consider the education of public figures, President George W. Bush went to Yale College and Harvard Business School. Both Mr. Obama and President Bush have graduate degrees from their respective schools at the same University. But will you argue that because President Bush has an education that is similar to (and on paper, in many respects better than) that of Mr. Obama, we cannot consider many of President Bush's locutions to be ignorant or barbarous?
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Moderator Note.
    As a matter of courtesy to the named people, and as a matter of what is relevant to these forums, the conversation about who said what and how illiterate or not it may seem ought to stop now.
    The personalities debate is entirely irrelevant to the question.
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    [partial quote=jimreilly;6191229]

    And if there is a "process" going one here (i.e. "sneaked" being gradually replaced by "snuck", first in AE and later in BE, or wherever) ...the interesting questions are why is it happening, how fast is it happening, and how far will it go: will "snuck" ever become the form most commonly used by a majority of people? And then what will happen?

    Maybe there's something about "snuck" (having to do with class/education associations) that fits the action of sneaking in--i.e. going around the rules, entering by some route other than the one that requires money, education, or privilege? Why not use a "non-standard" verb form for a "non-standard" action? There's some literary appropriateness, perhaps, that the aforementioned Ring Lardner was on to.

    Perhaps the people who use "sneaked" are less likely to have done it.[/quote]

    Now that the mod has called us back to order (thanks, mod) is there anyone who cares to respond to my questions quoted above?
     

    TriglavNationalPark

    Senior Member
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion. However, I am just as entitled to mine, and I do not retract a word of it. Mr. Obama is an educated man; he has degrees from Columbia College and Harvard Law School. For all that, though, one might note, for example, the occasion he referred to Rev. Jeremiah Wright as "somebody who had married Michelle and I", which is an error a high-school student should recognize. I will also point out to you that if one wants to consider the education of public figures, President George W. Bush went to Yale College and Harvard Business School. Both Mr. Obama and President Bush have graduate degrees from their respective schools at the same University. But will you argue that because President Bush has an education that is similar to (and on paper, in many respects better than) that of Mr. Obama, we cannot consider many of President Bush's locutions to be ignorant or barbarous?
    At no time did I refer to Obama's statements or speeches. It's obvious that even educated people can make major grammatical mistakes in everyday speech. I was referring specifically to Obama's book, which was published by a major publishing company and presumably underwent a thorough copyediting process.

    But this isn't about Obama or his book. I just went to Amazon.com and conducted a search inside the first book listed on the site's NYT Bestseller list. It contained several mentions of the word "snuck". When I returned to the page, a different bestseller was listed on the top. I conducted my search again; the second book contained two instances of "snuck" (one was in dialog, so it doesn't really count, but the other one was in narration).

    I understand that you do not like "snuck", but all the evidence, including the corpora mentioned earlier in this thread, indicates that it's a standard form in AmE, and that it isn't limited to uneducated speech.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm not sure we have established that there is a process going on whereby "sneaked" is being replaced by "snuck".

    This may well be happening. But I have the feeling that it's not happening very fast.

    That said, BrE often follows AmE. So if it's happening in AmE, it will probably happen here...
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    To JimReilly:
    Why is it happening? ~ Don't know. English verbs seem to 'fluctuate' like this: regular ones become irregular; vice versa. Yesterday's builded is today's built; today's sneaked is tomorrow's snuck.
    How fast is it happening and how far will it go? ~ I suppose we'll just have to keep checking back to the corporas: if there ever comes a day where there are no instances of sneaked, only snucks, then it will have changed totally from one form to another.
    And then what will happen? ~ Well, nothing, I suppose. We'll just have a new and universally-used past tense for the verb sneak. I don't suppose this will be accompanied by plagues of locusts or anything:)
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As this thread persists in leaving snuck behind and wandering into other territory I have closed it.
    Perhaps in time it will be appropriate to have another round of snuck discussion, at which time someone keen enough should petition the moderators of the day for a re-opening.
     

    DW

    Banned
    Polish
    << Moderator's note: This thread has been added to an existing one. Please read from the top. >>

    First off, the thread is created with an eye to generally putting the question on the ground of AmE. Lately I've paid a bit of attention to the usage of two existing, different past forms of the verb "(to) sneak". Well, it seems to me like snuck is actually sneaking up on sneaked while sneaking into more and more widespread use. :) It used to be considered as nonstandard by some and meet with sort of unease among many writers and editors particularly having its nonstandard origins recalled; but in view on the fact it's so widely used now by authorities it no longer does. Now, how about your environment, guys? Which of the two forms is more widely used by your environment or your part of the country at all, if you fell as you are able to speak for that many people in general. Which form do you fell more comfortable with? Thanks in advance for some exchange of opinions.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't have any first-hand experience to offer you, DW, but Google Ngram seems to indicate that "sneaked" is still in the lead, though "snuck" is catching up: click.

    (To the best of my recollection, I still haven't seen "snuck" in a BrE context - but it's only a matter of time:).)
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    My AHD4 offers the following note:

    Usage Note: Snuck is an Americanism first introduced in the 19th century as a nonstandard regional variant of sneaked. Widespread use of snuck has become more common with every generation. It is now used by educated speakers in all regions.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't like it, DW, but I hear "snuck" far more than "sneaked" in the speech of US speakers. Though I use it myself, I rarely hear others use "sneaked" in my part of the world.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    In The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, Kenneth G. Wilson has the following to say about snuck:

    sneak (v.)
    Sneaked has long been the regular past tense and past participle of sneak, but today snuck also occurs frequently in Standard English, though it is still sometimes limited in the most Formal Edited English.
    (Formal Edited English is capitalized here because it receives a precise definition elsewhere in Wilson's work.)
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    I grew up hearing and saying both.It wasn't until I took grammar in school that snuck was discouraged.
     

    hoodnotwood

    Member
    German-Italy
    << Moderator's note: This new question has been added to previous thread. >>

    What is the past form of sneek? I sneeked out of the hotel or is it an irregular form?
    Just another question I have: It is An Irregular form right? Not A Irregular form?
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    The spelling is sneak, not "sneek". The past tense is sneaked.

    "Snuck" as an alternative past tense is an Americanism that is now acceptable in speech but not in formal writing.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'm sorry that "snuck" is sneaking into the U.K.

    Using "snuck" as the past tense of "sneak" is no better than using "luck" as the past tense of "leak". There are certainly more important things to worry about, but I think the British would do well to resist "snuck". "Snuck" is nothing more than an aberration that managed to take root over here. :)
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    After thinking about this for a few mins I can't even remember which one I think is more normal, however, for me "snuck" is certainly not jocular or a non-standard form.
    snuck, [...] has reached the point where it is a virtual rival of sneaked in many parts of the English-speaking world. But not in Britain, where it is unmistakably taken to be a jocular or non-standard form.
    I'm curious as to what other BE speakers make of this quote and if they agree with it or not.
    I recall a friend in the late '60s saying, with intentional humour, "We done bin got snuck into the chem. lab and...". Since then, I have never been able to hear 'snuck' other than as in agreement with "But not in Britain, where it is unmistakably taken to be a jocular or non-standard form." For me, the attributes are "light-hearted yet nefarious."
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know if this, to me, interesting post on the subject has been linked yet in this thread.

    It's quite a well-informed piece as these things go, but as these things go, it went.

    This sort of thing is helpful: Many writers and editors have a lingering unease about the form, particularly if they recall its nonstandard origins. And 67 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of snuck in our 1988 survey. Nevertheless, an examination of recent sources shows that snuck is sneaking up on sneaked. Snuck was almost 20 percent more common in newspaper articles published in 1995 than it was in 1985. Snuck also appears in the work of many respected columnists and authors.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for the link, TT. I also found it interesting.

    I think this passage does a good job of telling us why "snuck" is so odd: Burchfield points out that no other English verb with an -eek or -eak ending makes a past tense -uck; he lists creak, freak, leak, peak, peek, reek, seek, squeak, streak, wreak, and shriek.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Ah no but, Mr O, some of those verbs ending -eek/-eak are irregular (seek, speak, wreak): I think that's the reason for snuck ~ people think it ought to be irregular, but just happen to have come up with a crap analogy. The past tense should obviously be snoke or snought:D
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    This is a good point, Mr E. I've snoken out of the house many times. :D

    "Speak", "seek" and "sneak" sure do seem more useful than most of the other verbs in that list. I've noticed that many of our most common verbs are irregular, so "sneak" may have become common enough that an irregular conjugation like "snuck" is likely.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Ah no but, Mr O, some of those verbs ending -eek/-eak are irregular (seek, speak, wreak): I think that's the reason for snuck ~ people think it ought to be irregular, but just happen to have come up with a crap analogy. The past tense should obviously be snoke or snought:D
    And the past of leak should be luck. Good thing there's no verb to feak.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Moi personnellement, I think snuck is not yet BrE.

    Give us another 5 years, and we'll be corrupted converted.
    The five years are up, and I for one am far from converted. I don't use "snuck" and I don't hear it around me (but then I am a long way from London, that great port of entry for AmE-isms).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Well, here are some recent Google News hits from UK sources, ss;):

    This is the change to disability benefits that the Government snuck in ...
    The Independent-27 Feb 2017
    When the eyes of the country were on Copeland and Stoke, the Conservative Government snuck out a proposed change to the social security ...​

    Rangers 6-0 Hamilton
    Rangers Football Club-22 hours ago
    The angle was tight but his shot across goal snuck in at the far post. He then rounded off his and Rangers afternoon with a sixth and his third.​

    Man 'snuck into caravan and lifted woman's duvet to see her naked ...
    Mirror.co.uk-16 Feb 2017
    A man has been accused of sneaking into a caravan and lifting a woman's duvet to see her naked as she slept. Neil Terry has denied claims ...​

    I don't think I've ever used "snuck" - but I suspect I don't often use "sneaked" either....
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    Here's a link to an NGram using Google books (all English), showing steady progress in usage for "snuck" since 1980:
    Google Ngram Viewer
    In the Corpus of Contemporary English (started in 1990), instances of "snuck" (1054) outnumber instances of "sneaked" (948), even though usage in Google books, according to the N-gram, shows "snuck" considerably less than "sneaked" in AmE.

    Compare this to my 2008 look at COCA (in this same thread), which reported:
    627 instances of 'snuck'
    763 instances of 'sneaked'
     
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    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I see the Oxford Dictionaries definition labels "snuck" [past and past participle of sneak] as North American informal.

    I've used it for many years myself amongst friends and while I've always regarded it as semi-slang (although not especially American), I have, like Loob (post #93) come across it increasingly being used in 'ordinary' BE. :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The Ngrams suffer from apparent mis-assignment of some fraction of works into the "wrong" AE and BE category. A BE work that spells colour as color? :eek: I often use this to try to assess the extent to which something might be misleading in such comparisons between AE and BE. . This Ngram shows a significant rise in "snuck" in "BE" books, that resembles the "rise" for "color" in BE books.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    I checked the BNC (which was a relatively small corpus, 100 million words, since it only went up to the early 1990s). It had 112 instances of "color" and 10 instances of "snuck" ("sneaked" - 125 instances). Not many of either, relatively speaking, but still enough to show that both "color" and "snuck" existed in British texts that early.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I checked the BNC (which was a relatively small corpus, 100 million words, since it only went up to the early 1990s). It had 112 instances of "color" and 10 instances of "snuck" ("sneaked" - 125 instances). Not many of either, relatively speaking, but still enough to show that both "color" and "snuck" existed in British texts that early.
    It's not their existence but their frequency that I was referring to - do you know how many colour instances there were for the 112 of color in that corpus? (Aside from wondering how many of the "color" in the BNC were instances illustrating AE/BE differences:))
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moi personnellement, I think snuck is not yet BrE.

    Give us another 5 years, and we'll be corrupted converted.
    Well, it's in the Independent, where the assistant chief officer was quoted, and speaking in all seriousness. Well and truly Britishised then.
    ACO Davies added: “Barry thought the snake may have travelled from China – which is where the kettle was made – but I suspect she snuck into the box at a storage warehouse somewhere in the UK...”
    Man finds live snake in Argos kettle

    Still not a 'snuck' user myself.
     
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