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If "freeze" becomes "froze," why can't "squeeze" become "squoze?"

This week on That's What They Say, we turn to A.A. Milne's classic children's novel, The House at Pooh Corner

We love this line from a passage in which Piglet has to squeeze himself through a letter box in order to get out of Owl's house: "Piglet squeezed and he squoze, and with one last squoze, he was out."

Maybe it's just us, but we think "squoze" is a pretty great non-standard verb.

Though it's tempting to categorize "squoze" as a newer addition to English, it's actually at least 200 years old, from what we can tell.

Some of you may remember "squoze" getting a lot of attention in 1985. That's because former President Ronald Regan used "squoze" during a news conference in which he was discussing the skin cancer that was removed from his nose: "I picked at it and squoze it and so forth and really messed myself up a little."

Incidentally, there was also a drink mix in the 1970s called Squoze. Its mascot was half of a piece of sugar who claimed Pillsbury squoze him in half to give Squoze "half the calories of most pre-sweetened drink mixes."

Unfortunately, Squoze didn't have the staying power of Kool-Aid, so all we can do is hope that the maimed piece of sugar went on to lead a full and productive life.

Presidents and pre-sweetened drink mixes aside, let's take a look at "squeeze." This word comes into English around 1600 and appears to be an alteration of an earlier verb, "quease" which meant "to press."

When we look at a verb like "freeze" which becomes "froze" in the past tense, it's not hard to see how we followed the pattern and came up with "squoze." However, there are plenty of other verbs that don't follow this structure. There's "please" and "pleased," "ease" and "eased," "sneeze" and "sneezed," etc.

That said, we think "snoze" instead of "sneezed" is another really great non-standard verb. Are there any non-standard verbs that you like to use?


Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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