Snuck snuck into the movie, too, in a scene in which Lincoln asks his son Robert about visiting wartime malaria wards with his mother: “I snuck in afterwards,” Robert says. In fact, this past-tense form of sneak only began sneaking into colloquial English in the late 19th century. Viewers might notice that a cruder word that rhymes with snuck also appears in the film a couple of times. The word existed then, but Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large for the OED and author of “The F-Word,” the definitive history of the term, pegs the movie’s usage as decidedly anachronistic.
Kushner said he felt that making some anachronistic tweaks was justified “in the interest of not making it sound like a historical waxwork.” Picky language types may yet find more to poke at, but if enthusiastic audiences are anything to go by, Kushner and Spielberg managed to strike the right balance of liveliness and verisimilitude. And even if there are slight inaccuracies now and then, it would be churlish to grousle.
Ben Zimmer is the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com and Vocabulary.com. He can be reached at benzimmer.com/contact.