Make Your Editor Cry: Creeped, Crept, and, um, Crap

Make Your Editor Cry: Creeped, Crept, and, um, Crap

(Things That) Make Your Editor Cry: Creeped, Crept, and, um, Crap

In one of my articles, I pointed out that creeped can be the past tense of creep and I received some private correspondence debating this notion which led me to believe I ought to speak up publicly in case anyone else wondered about this seemingly questionable word choice.

So, normally, when you look up a conjugation for the verb creep you end up with something like this.

Present Preterite Present continuous
I creep I crept I am creeping
Present perfect Future Future perfect
I have crept I will creep I will have crept
Past continuous Past perfect Future continuous
I was creeping I had crept I will be creeping

But really, all things being equal, honestly speaking here, since it “can be” either word then the full conjugation of creep ought to look something like this:

Present Preterite Present continuous
I creep I creeped/crept I am creeping
you creep you creeped/crept you are creeping
he/she/it creeps he/she/it creeped/crept he/she/it is creeping
we creep we creeped/crept we are creeping
you creep you creeped/crept you are creeping
they creep they creeped/crept they are creeping
Present perfect Future Future perfect
I have creeped/crept I will creep I will have creeped/crept
you have creeped/crept you will creep you will have creeped/crept
>he/she/it has creeped/crept he/she/it will creep he/she/it will have creeped/crept
we have creeped/crept we will creep we will have creeped/crept
you have creeped/crept you will creep you will have creeped/crept
they have creeped/crept they will creep they will have creeped/crept
Past continuous Past perfect Future continuous
I was creeping I had creeped/crept I will be creeping
you were creeping you had creeped/crept you will be creeping
he/she/it was creeping he/she/it had creeped/crept he/she/it will be creeping
we were creeping we had creeped/crept we will be creeping
you were creeping you had creeped/crept you will be creeping
they were creeping they had creeped/crept they will be creeping

According to Webster, the past tense of creep has been from time to time, and I quote, “creeped, crep, crop, crope, crup, and even, um, crap.” For whatever reason, they left the apparently popular choice crept out of that list. Also according to Webster, (emphasis mine) “The past tense of creep meaning “to move slowly” can be crept or creeped, with creeped being the less popular word. However, in the context of “creep out” referring to the sensation of creepy things, the past tense is always creeped out.”
Read it for yourself: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/whats-the-past-tense-of-creep

So here is my take.

1. Webster says “creeped” is A-okay and [quote] can be [end quote] used just as easily as crept, it just apparently lost the popularity contest at some point. Okay. I don’t mind making an unpopular choice. Heck. I’m a Christian. I’m pretty familiar with my choices being characterized as “unpopular.” From what I can tell, the “popular” choices are wrong more often than not.

2. Webster says the past tense of creep has been “creeped, crep, crop, crope, crup, and even, um, crap.” Okay. Well crap. News to me. But creeped, that I knew.

3. Webster says the past tense use of “creeped” is [quote] always [end quote] used in the case of creepy things. Always. Huh. Always. Funny word that. Always. so what you’re saying is creeped is ALWAYS used. Even though it’s supposedly less popular. Okay. Fair enough. i don’t want my word choice to leave anyone feeling crept out or anything so I will ALWAYS use creeped in that case.

4. In the article, Webster also confesses [quote] But since the 1970s, creeped has been showing impressive gains in published, edited text, and we’re finding increasing evidence of it where formerly only crept could readily be found [end quote]. Oh. So, only for about the last fifty years or so, then? Yeah. Half a century. Not a long time, or anything. Okay. Well, I can certainly get on board with the whole unpopular theory then. Got it.

5. Webster aside, the fact is that the conjugations of similar verbs like leap, learn, and kneel in US English are spelled leaped and learned and kneeled and they are not spelled like the British English variants leapt and learnt and knelt. Okay. So it seems more consistent with US English to spell the conjugation of creep as creeped instead of crept in that case. Doesn’t it?

Conclusion: Creeped it is.

You are free to dissent as you like. I hope we have all learnt something and haven’t leapt to any incorrect conclusions.

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