In his complaint against the incorrect past tense of “sneak” as he perceived it [“When grammar sneaks up on you,” Free for All, March 2], Howard O. Allen snuck in some rhetorical sleight of hand. Presumably preferring “sneaked” over “snuck,” the writer offered “luck,” “puck,” “fruck,” “ruck” and “suck” as similarly nonsensical formulations. The problem is, this mixed apples and oranges. While leak and freak are spelled like sneak, the others (peek, reek, and seek) merely sound alike. (To give him the benefit of a doubt, perhaps he meant he “peaked at the pipes.”)
More fundamentally, just because two words have similar spellings doesn’t mean their past tenses are similarly formed. For example, the past tense of “bake” is “baked,” but the past tense of “take” is “took.” Even Mr. Allen’s choice of “seek” has “sought” for past tense. The letter led me to respond after I read it, but it pleaded a flawed case.
Bill Yue, Arlington