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Stan Carey at Sentence First links to an unusually campy usage fight between The Awl and The Paris Review, and offers a thorough survey of snuckological scholarship. Read, as they say, the whole thing.


  1. David Denison said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

    There's a paper by my late colleague, Richard Hogg, which might be of interest:

    Hogg, Richard M. 1988. Snuck. In G. Nixon & R. Honey (eds.), _An historic tongue: Studies in memory of Barbara Strang_, 31-40. London: Arnold.

    I can't locate a copy just now.

    (myl) It's here:


  2. Mr. Fnortner said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    The text can be read via Google Books ( See page 31 et seq.

  3. Bryan D said,

    June 18, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    Maybe it is just my young American ear but sneaked sounds peculiar and unnatural. Perhaps I snuck about my neighbourhood too much as a child though the spell-checker in my browser does not recognise snuck.

  4. Tom said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 2:52 am

    Snuck sounds fine to me (BrE), but then I'd use 'tret' as the past tense of 'to treat'.

  5. John Walden said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 3:42 am

    I dare say this has been pointed out before. I wonder if 'snuck' is helped in any way by pronunciation or eggcornish confusion of 'sneak' and 'snick'. It would then follow the pattern of dig and stick. There seems to be some google evidence that 'snick' is confused with 'sneak' in the present: "snick into Rwanda, snick into a store, snick into a movie theater, snick into your teens chatting history" all google and there are plenty of 'snicks' that do not suggest a glancing shot or other onomatopoeia. What I don't know is whether there is a widespread pronunciation of 'sneak' as 'snick', especially in areas where 'snuck' is more used. In my BrE it's definitely/sni:k/

  6. TO said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 4:05 am

    @John Walden
    I'm not altogether sure that 'snick' exists in my AmE (Pacific Northwest). Is it anything like 'snip?' It could be that I just haven't been aware of it, but I wonder if 'snick' is unfamiliar to other Americans also.
    'Sneak' is definitely /sni:k/ for me as well, BTW, and I can echo Bryan D in saying that 'sneaked' sounds slightly odd.

  7. John Walden said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 5:13 am

    Well, the 'glancing blow' seems to be used a lot in cricket but appears to be no different from 'snicking into third gear' in its echoic essence.

    ('Echoic' is a lot easier to spell than onomatopoeic. I hope it's the same thing)

    'Snicking into a movie theater' though has no sound-effect quality that I can see and seems to be a confusion with 'sneaking'. 'Movie theater' is impeccably AmE and so is 'store' ('cinema' and 'shop' in BrE), if that's got anything to do with it.

    Might 'snicking into' even be back-formed from 'snuck into'?

  8. Nat said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 6:34 am

    I'm a California grad student. I don't recognize "snick". But "snuck" is natural and I'd only say "sneaked" if I was being self-conscious.

  9. “Snuck” sneaked in « Sentence first said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    […] Language Log has a short post on what it calls Snuck-gate. It's worth a detour, as always, for the discussion — and for Mark Liberman's phrase […]

  10. Mr Punch said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    I'm a middle-aged northeastern American, and I know "snick" only in relation to "snee" (and vice versa). "Snuck" I know as common, informal usage.

  11. Taylor Selseth said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    In my speech "snuck" is the default Preterit form of sneak. I've never heard "snick" before.

  12. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    June 19, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    Not that it's scientific, but I found a bunch of the entries from a Google search "sneakers snuck out" to be entertaining:

    Links include a Garrison Keillor quote, the First Lady's Lanvin sneakers, and a guide to sneaking out of the house (with a comment about the consequences).

    A Google search using the terms "sneaker sneaked out" doesn't seem to show any "sneaked out" entries along with the word sneaker.

    If you like a little soap opera in your Google results, "snuck out" is definitely the term to search.

  13. Bill Walderman said,

    June 20, 2010 @ 10:21 am

    Richard Hogg offers an intriguing suggestion that the "but" vowel (the vowel phonetically represented by an inverted "v") came to be perceived as an "ideophonic marker of past forms regardless of the vowel of the present tense," as exemplified by "dug," "struck" and eventually "snuck." I can add a very small piece of evidence for this hypothesis. About thirty years ago I noticed a friend of mine in rural southeast Alabama, who speaks a non-standard southern variety of American English, along with various members of his extended family, casually using the form "crunk," with the inverted "v" vowel, as the preterite or past participle of the verb "to crank," meaning "to start" (either transitively or intransitively) with reference to an engine such as that of a car or bulldozer. They used this form entirely unselfconsciously, and I don't think there was any awareness on their part that the form was exceptional.

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