Sneaking up on “Snuck”
A reader asks:
Could you tell me which is more appropriate or how it is used: snuck vs sneeked – He snuck across the border.
The word snuck as the simple past of sneak is regarded with disdain by many speakers and writers.
The correct principal parts, they will argue, are:
Let’s watch him sneak out of the dorm.
He sneaked out last night as well.
He has sneaked out every night this week.
In other English-speaking parts of the world, the past form snuck, if acknowledged at all, is usually labeled “jocular.”
Personally, I like snuck. To my ear “sneaked” does not sound right. Somehow snuck seems sneakier than sneaked. For me the principal parts are sneak/snuck/(have) snuck.
Admittedly snuck is not a word for formal writing. If I were reaching for the same sense in a context that did not permit of sneak/snuck, I’d resort to creep/crept. (No, not creep/creeped. )
To get an idea of just how acceptable snuck is in American usage, I went to two newspapers I admire: the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
New York Times
…it’s not going to work. The financial industry is not going to get away with a covert bailout, snuck past voters with obscure wording. –Paul Krugman, March 17, 2008
The Rangers nearly snuck out of here with a victory, but Bure again knotted things up… –Jason Diamos, December 10, 1995
Mr. Wilkins, in a plaid shirt and handcuffs, snuck occasional looks at the photographs before him. –Joe Sexton, February 9, 1995
Christine Rokita, a parishioner at Brandt’s church, couldn’t agree more. Her son Matthew, 17, a junior at St. Rita Catholic High School, snuck out to the parade this year against his mother’s wishes. –Stacy St. Clair and Andrew L. Wang, March 26, 2009
Wade then somehow snuck free for that reverse layup—and also somehow missed it. –K.C. Johnson, March 10, 2009
We sneaked Demasi out the back door. –John Kass, February 28, 2009
In this unscientific sampling of American journalists, the snucks clearly have it!
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