Sneaked or snuck

This is a line from the State of the Union address on Monday night:

The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks — special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate.

Maybe usage is taking another turn: Snuck as the past tense of sneak is so pervasive, even though it is still considered nonstandard, that even the president and his speech writers use it. Those who argue that it doesn’t matter whether someone uses standard grammar would point to this and say, “Everyone understood perfectly well what the president meant. He didn’t need to say ‘sneaked.'” Indeed, no one was likely to misunderstand the president. So all is well, right?

Some people may find it amusing that I point to this minor misuse of a word by a president who has been widely quoted as saying, “They misunderestimate me.” I happen to enjoy malapropisms by this president and other presidents. They make us laugh and sometimes they reveal something interesting about the men who utter them. Without them, we would have a return to normality, not normalcy.

Still, I wonder if we should give up so easily on snuck. Certainly, as we edit for the newspaper, we should stick to what it standard. I think teachers should mark snuck as nonstandard in papers their students write. I think speech writers for the president should avoid snuck in the State of the Union address.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.