The written word. It’s what journalists make a living with. Journalists love the written word in all forms from fiction and essays to investigative articles and even poetry. We love using big and descriptive words, creating powerful sentences and catchy headlines. We’ve been known to adore alliteration a little too much.
But the English language is a tricky business where one word can have multiple meanings. Take for example the word ‘right.’ You are right to turn right because that is your basic human right. There are also the words rite and write, both pronounced the same as right but carry many different meanings.
Recently Black Press journalists across B.C. got into an online debate about whether it is proper to use the word sneaked or snuck.
The sentence was: The feline (sneaked) snuck into the catio. The discussion quickly went off the rails as they often do with journalists in chat forums.
Grammarly says sneaked is the safer word. Spell check doesn’t even recognize the word snuck. Merriam-Webster Dictionary suggests that sneaked was the common use but has gone out of style and has been replaced by snuck.
One journalist suggested snek instead to which another reporter quipped that snek is a “danger noodle (snake) synonymous with sneaky behaviour?!”
One of our regional digital reporters said sneaked = rat
Snuck = cat
This debate quickly descended into ridiculousness.
What about replacing it with “scurried,” suggested a saner member of the chat.
To which reporters replied, “Scurried is a mouse. Slinked is a possum,” added another.
Then someone asked a digital reporter what a raccoon would be.
Summerland editor and regular columnist John Arendt suggested raccoons ‘cleverly move in the shadows.’
Others chimed in calling raccoons trash pandas.
The digital reporter who lives in Metro Vancouver — where the over-population of raccoons is akin to what urban deer is here — replied, “Raccoons are not in the shadows. They are sandal eaters, they are snickerers. They will stand outside your window and watch what you’re eating for dinner.”
As with many debates about the English language, there is no “right” or correct answer — just a mutual adoration for an imperfect language and all the joy and frustration it can communicate.
Thought I’d sneak in the last word. I had the final call and went with “snuck.”
— Monique Tamminga is the editor of the Penticton Western News
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