How Snuck Sneaked into English and Drug is still Dragging Behind: A Corpus Study on the Usage of New Past Tense Forms for Sneak and Drag in British and American English

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  • Camilla Søballe Horslund, Denmark
Language observers may have noticed the existence of two past tense forms for the verb to sneak in American English, sneaked and snuck. Interestingly, both forms have not always coexisted; the original form is sneaked, and snuck has only recently become a real competitor for sneaked (Hogg, 1988: 31-32). The verb to drag seems to be somewhat in the same situation with the original past tense form dragged as well as the new form drug (Bybee & Moder, 1983: 252). The present real-time data supports Murray’s (1998) suggestion, based on apparent-time data, that snuck, if not replacing sneaked, then at least is increasing in relative use. Drug, on the other hand, stays a minority form over time, and there is no evidence that the form is becoming common. Snuck is generally much more common than drug, in both British and American English. Furthermore, both strong past tense forms are more common in American English than in British English. With respect to register, the strong form is most common in the spoken register for both American and British English and least common in the academic and newspaper registers, which could be taken to support an association between language use and language attitudes, (as reported by Murray 1998); the idea that snuck is informal may be related to the fact that snuck is mainly used in informal registers and rarely in formal ones. This relation is even more distinct for drug, as drug is much less used, and if so chiefly in speech, and thus elicits heavier negative attitudes.
Translated title of the contributionHvordan snuck sneg sig ind i Engelsk og drug stadig halter bagefter: Et korpusstudie af brugen a nye datidsformer for sneak og drag i britisk og amerikansk engelsk
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnglish Today
Pages (from-to)51 - 58
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

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