Pitying the Passionate Grammar Snob

47

I have confessed it before: I am a reformed grammar snob. I was once an intolerable nitpicker. But even at my worst, I think I was able to keep some perspective. I would chuckle at unnecessary apostrophes and shake my head at dangling participles, but I don’t think I ever used words like, “It drives me crazy when people say irregardless!”

I’ve taught English writing and literature for more than twenty years. I tend to know more and care more about grammar and linguistic conventions than most, but I just don’t understand why folks get so worked up. Okay, people make mistakes. Some people never learned any better. Some people just don’t care as much as I do. So what? There are plenty of more important things to worry about.

Click Here to Subscribe to our Weekly Blog Update!

Let me illustrate with the following comment taken from a writing blog I follow. Keep in mind that the post this commenter is replying to is even-handed, gracious and written by an experienced writer and editor. The post addresses the increasing acceptance of snuck by dictionaries that once acknowledged only sneaked. This is one response:

I am completely appalled by the use of “snuck.” It is substandard English, but it has been misused so much that now people think it’s OK. “Snuck” originated with Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn, so if you want to sound like Huck, go right ahead and say “snuck.”

 

IMHO, “snuck” ranks right up there with “between you and I” as the most egregious English error. “Between you and I” or “spoke to Jim and I” were foisted on us by English teachers, who also told us to put commas and periods outside quotation marks, instead of inside, where they belong. Note that the previous two comments have commas and periods on the outside.

“Completely appalled”? “Egregious”? I think maybe that’s overdoing it. I find her inclusion of H in IMHO rather ironic in this situation. Where does she get her definition of “substandard English”? Who determines those standards? Look, I don’t take issue with her perspective as much as her tone. We all have our opinions and preferences. If she prefers sneaked to snuck, fine. But why cast aspersions on those who like snuck? Who cares?

I was unable to validate her claim that snuck originated with Huckleberry Finn. That’s possible, but so what? Sneak was the invention of Shakespeare (who else?).  It took on a regular past form — sneaked. But in the 1800s, some Americans, including Huck, started saying snuck. It was considered colloquial usage for more than a century, but how long does a word have to be in circulation before you acknowledge it? Most dictionaries are saying it’s time to bend to popular usage.

That’s how it works in the U.S. We don’t have an authoritative body like the Académie Française, which determines official rules of diction and grammar. Our “system” is more organic. Various dictionary makers convene periodically to discuss changes to the language. They tend to be cautious about accepting jargon and slang, but when a word endures popularly for enough time, they appropriately give it the nod.

We don’t have to like it, but we don’t have any ground to stand on when it comes to assertions like, “snuck is substandard English.”

I also have to take exception to the commenter’s suggestion that pronoun case errors (i.e., between you and I) and non-standard punctuation usage is “foisted” upon the trusting young by English teachers. Most teachers I know fastidiously teach grammar and punctuation according to accepted standards. The idea that English teachers are sabotaging the language is silly. I guess she had a bad English teacher once upon a time.

Oh, one more thing. The idea that commas and periods always go inside quotation marks because that’s “where they belong” is a little loony too. The British have different rules, and we only do it that way in America because of limitations on printing presses in the early days. We’ve just kept the rule for the sake of consistency.

Let’s all just take a deep breath and relax, okay?

Oh, and here’s the data on sneaked vs. snuck. A Google search of the two shows 4.9 million results for sneaked and 10.5 million for snuck. So, online, people use snuck more than twice as often. Isn’t it paradoxical to say that two-thirds of English speakers prefer the “substandard” usage? But that’s online. What about real published works? Publications still favor sneaked, but as you can see in the graph below, snuck is sneaking up on it, and has been for a few decades.

Sneaked vs Snuck

*****

I’d really like to hear from you on this. Does bad grammar infuriate you? Or do you share my concern for the critics?

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. bactefort
    bactefort03-24-2017

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I ave truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. Porn Viagra
    Porn Viagra03-21-2017

    You have brought up a very excellent details, appreciate it for the post.

  3. trade gift cards for cash
    trade gift cards for cash03-20-2017

    Thanks again for the article.Much thanks again. Great.

  4. Website
    Website03-20-2017

    Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  5. read this post here
    read this post here03-20-2017

    Appreciate you sharing, great article.Thanks Again. Really Great.

  6. marvel future fight hack download
    marvel future fight hack download03-20-2017

    This is one awesome blog article.Much thanks again. Will read on…

  7. matched betting blog
    matched betting blog03-20-2017

    I truly appreciate this article. Really Great.

  8. promocel.com.br
    promocel.com.br03-17-2017

    Just Browsing While I was surfing today I noticed a excellent article about

  9. e zigaretten köln
    e zigaretten köln03-17-2017

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I all be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  10. matka tips
    matka tips03-17-2017

    Thanks so much for the article post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on

  11. we are still here film
    we are still here film03-17-2017

    This website was how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I ave found something that helped me. Appreciate it!

  12. javhihi com
    javhihi com03-17-2017

    It as best to take part in a contest for among the best blogs on the web. I will advocate this site!

  13. Kansas City Basement Waterproofing
    Kansas City Basement Waterproofing03-17-2017

    Thank you ever so for you blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

  14. earning with products
    earning with products03-16-2017

    There as certainly a lot to know about this topic. I like all of the points you ave made.

  15. Love
    Love03-15-2017

    If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an email.

  16. Muslim countries
    Muslim countries03-15-2017

    Wonderful, what a webpage it is! This website gives useful information to us, keep it up.

  17. Headset angebot
    Headset angebot03-14-2017

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I ave really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I all be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  18. vestidos de fiesta online
    vestidos de fiesta online03-14-2017

    Really enjoyed this article post.Really thank you! Want more.

  19. where to find weed
    where to find weed03-14-2017

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually realize what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also discuss with my website =). We may have a hyperlink change agreement among us!

  20. london boutique hotels
    london boutique hotels03-14-2017

    This is one awesome blog.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

  21. trading services
    trading services03-13-2017

    Very clean web site , appreciate it for this post.

  22. Romero
    Romero03-13-2017

    Very neat blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

  23. how to lose weight quickly
    how to lose weight quickly03-13-2017

    Nice blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  24. Luxury Yachts Croatia
    Luxury Yachts Croatia03-12-2017

    whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, many people are hunting around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  25. Hotel Deals
    Hotel Deals03-11-2017

    Just wanna input that you have a very nice web site , I like the layout it really stands out.

  26. create great content
    create great content03-11-2017

    Muchos Gracias for your blog.Thanks Again. Great.

  27. youtube mp3
    youtube mp303-10-2017

    Very good blog article.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  28. Informatic Engineering
    Informatic Engineering03-10-2017

    I would be great if you could point me in the direction of

  29. thay doi giay chung nhan dang ky dau tu
    thay doi giay chung nhan dang ky dau tu03-10-2017

    We hope you will understand our position and look forward to your cooperation.

  30. inbound marketing
    inbound marketing03-10-2017

    Thanks for sharing this fine article. Very interesting ideas! (as always, btw)

  31. Maralyn
    Maralyn03-10-2017

    Really appreciate you sharing this article post.Thanks Again. Cool.

  32. Watching the Super Bowl
    Watching the Super Bowl03-10-2017

    usually posts some very exciting stuff like this. If you

  33. adam and eve dildos
    adam and eve dildos03-10-2017

    Thank you for your article post.Thanks Again. Great.

  34. Podiatrist
    Podiatrist03-08-2017

    Say, you got a nice blog post.Much thanks again. Cool.

  35. EZ Battery Reconditioning
    EZ Battery Reconditioning03-08-2017

    Very amusing thoughts, well told, everything is in its place:D

  36. travel food review in Italy
    travel food review in Italy03-08-2017

    wow, awesome blog article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  37. Letting Agents Oldbury
    Letting Agents Oldbury03-08-2017

    Its hard to find good help I am regularly saying that its hard to get quality help, but here is

  38. cccam pay server
    cccam pay server03-07-2017

    very couple of internet websites that take place to be in depth below, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly really worth checking out

  39. nikon dslr d5300
    nikon dslr d530003-07-2017

    Wow, great article post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  40. food
    food03-07-2017

    This blog is definitely interesting and also diverting. I have chosen a lot of useful things out of this source. I ad love to come back again soon. Thanks a bunch!

  41. eye strain
    eye strain03-07-2017

    A round of applause for your article.Much thanks again. Cool.

  42. sign in gmail
    sign in gmail03-07-2017

    This is one awesome article.Much thanks again. Will read on

  43. Ian Flanigan
    Ian Flanigan03-06-2017

    the minute but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds, so

  44. dallas texas classifieds
    dallas texas classifieds03-06-2017

    Very good article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

  45. venue finder
    venue finder03-06-2017

    I truly appreciate this article.Really thank you! Cool.

  46. bdsm lovers
    bdsm lovers03-05-2017

    Dcgos3 Tumblr article I saw someone writing about this on Tumblr and it linked to

Leave a Reply

If you like a post, please take a second to click "like," and comment as often as you like.
We promise not to correct your grammar!