Grammar Crimes and Misdemeanors

All right, class. It’s time to rant against grammar atrocities. I may only write about them once a year or so, but anyone who spends much time with me hears about them frequently. This could account for my Native American name, “Sits Alone Grumbling.”

Several years ago I published a monthly newsletter, “Janet Grammarseed’s Advice to the Wordlorn,” grammar wisdom directed at middle schoolers. If I started it up again, the target audience would be much larger. Just as Booth Tarkington’s classic, Seventeen, today would be retitled Eleven, Maybe Twelve, my little newsletter would be renamed, “Watch Your Damn Language!”

Whereas Janet Grammarseed skipped across the Heartland, gently correcting grammar and spreading good syntax wherever she went, today’s approach would require a much tougher avatar. Enter the Gramminator, roughing up anyone who fails to reach agreement between subjects and verbs, amputating dangling participles, and kicking ands and buts.

When our children were young, if they made a grammar mistake, say, at the dinner table, my husband and I would grab our throats, pretend to choke, fall on the floor, and feign unconsciousness. Perhaps that was a bit extreme, but our son sends grammatically correct, perfectly punctuated texts. Our daughter is poised for a career in journalism—the last bastion of complete sentences.

I admit I’ve mellowed. I’ve given up trying to explain the subjunctive (If I were, if it were…) When confronted with most grammar atrocities, I close my eyes and peacefully chant, Om-m-m-m. Now I focus on only one grammarcide. I’ve drawn a line in the sand of my Zen garden regarding that particular pockmark on the face of my Mother Tongue, and  I refuse to budge.

I am dedicated to bringing The Word about the past tense of sneak…one small step for grammar, one giant leap for grammarkind. The faux pas that has me digging in my heels is so legitimized by use, it actually appears in some dictionaries, obviously those toadying to teenagers and the news media.

The past tense of sneak is sneaked—not snuck.

Snuck is the sound one makes when trying to rid oneself of nasal congestion. It is the result of phlegm, not stealth. Be honest. Does snuck sound like the language of Shakespeare and Churchill? I think not.

I’m not asking for much. Please, teach your children and yourselves along with them: a word that sounds like a goose with post nasal drip has no place in the Land of the Well-spoken and the Home of the Grammatically Correct.

If I could just eradicate that one atrocity, the use of snuck, I might earn a mention in Wikipedia as the Eradicator of Snuck. Move over Jonas Salk. Perhaps then I could hang up my grammar spurs and live out my Golden Years in peace.

Or not.

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