Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: stink / stank / stunk.

stink / stank / stunk. So inflected. *Stinked is a dialectal past tense and past participle. "Stunk" often appears erroneously as a simple-past form, especially in figurative uses — e.g.: o "When I coached, the calls stunk [read 'stank'] then and the calls stink now." Howard Manly, "Patriots, Ch. 4 Winners," Boston Globe, 8 Dec. 1998, at E5. o "The Patriots stunk [read 'stank']." Steve Buckley, "Blow a Gasket, Pete," Boston Herald, 28 Dec. 1998, at 100. o "Your timing stunk [read 'stank']." David Landis, "Beat the Street," Kiplinger's Personal Finance, 1 Feb. 2003, at 56. Language-Change Index — (1) *"stinked" as past tense of "stink": Stage 1; (2) "stunk" for simple-past "stank": Stage 4. *Invariably inferior forms. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "There can be little question that good composition is far less dependent upon acquaintance with the laws, than upon practice and natural aptitude. A clear head, a quick imagination, and a sensitive ear, will go far towards making all rhetoric precepts needless. He who daily hears and reads well-framed sentences, will naturally more or less tend to use similar ones." Herbert Spencer, The Philosophy of Style (1871), reprinted in Problems and Styles of Communication 166 (1945).

1 thought on “Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: stink / stank / stunk.”

  1. Helpful as always, but how could this entry pass without a reference to the most well-known usage of all three forms:

    You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
    You’re a nasty wasty skunk,
    Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
    Your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch.
    The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
    “Stink, stank, stunk!”

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