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What does "he’s sneaking in a cheeseburger" mean? Context: Now I have a very unhappy stepdad, but at least he’s sneaking in a cheeseburger so that should keep him amused while I write you a letter.

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Although John's answer is a valid one, I'd like to offer a different possibility.

Now I have a very unhappy stepdad, but at least he’s sneaking in a cheeseburger so that should keep him amused while I write you a letter.

That sentence means that the man is occupied with his cheeseburger while the writer is composing her letter, which will give the author some time to write without being distracted by her unhappy stepfather.

Now, as for the expression sneak in, that can be used to mean find some time for. Finding a dictionary listing this sense of the word was not easy; the closest I could find was:

sneak in (v.) insert casually : She slipped in a reference to her own work
[syn: slip in, stick in, sneak in, insert]

Though most dictionary definitions for sneak mention doing things "in secret," Google gave me plenty of instances where sneak in doesn't really seem to imply any furtiveness, such as these headlines:

  • Five ways to sneak in a workout
  • It's summer! Time to sneak in the veggies!
  • How to sneak exercise into your busy day

These bloggers are not talking about doing something secretly, but they are talking about how to slip something desirable into one's schedule or diet.

In the context of time, then, sneak in can be used to mean find a few minutes for.

In the case of the letter you quoted, it doesn't seem like the man is trying to hide his cheeseburger so that no one notices it. (If that's the case, he's not being successful, since the person writing the letter clearly knows he's eating a cheeseburger.)

So, I'd paraphrase the original as:

Now I have a very unhappy stepdad, but at least he’s found some time to eat his cheeseburger, so that should keep him busy while I write you a letter.

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It means he is getting a cheeseburger (for himself to eat) in a sneaky way (hiding it so nobody knows he has it).

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  • You are very welcome. Happy to help anytime. :) – John M. Landsberg Sep 21 '13 at 18:20
  • By the way, I saw some of the comments on your other question, and "keeping somebody amused" is perfectly fine as a creative way to talk about keeping someone both contented and occupied by having a cheeseburger (or anything). It's a colloquialism. It's commonly said. It's not formal; it's just the way some people like to say it. :) – John M. Landsberg Sep 21 '13 at 18:40
  • Larry Groce elaborated on the "sneaking in a cheeseburger" bit with his 1976 hit "Junk Food Junkie": google.com/… – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 21 '13 at 20:55

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