The "Bushisms" industry, mined so thoroughly by Slate's Jacob Weisberg for eight long years, is now a thing of the past. But Weisberg's colleague at Slate, Christopher Beam, got an exclusive scoop on a behind-the-scenes eleventh-hour Bushism when he managed to get into a farewell party for the outgoing administration on Sunday night. Here's what Bush told the crowd, according to Beam:
"I am glad we made this journey," he went on. Then he engaged in a little reminiscence. "Remember the time in 2003 when Bartlett came to work all hung over?" Laughs. "Nothing ever changes."
He continued: "We never shruck—"
"Shirked!" someone yelled.
"Shirked," Bush corrected, smiling. "You might have shirked; I shrucked. I mean we took the deals head on."
I can only guess that Bush had in mind such pairs as stick/stuck and strike/struck, and tried to apply the same irregular preterite formation to shirk. This type of innovation isn't entirely out of the question — consider the relatively recent arrival of snuck as a nonstandard preterite for sneak. (Bush made the added metathetic innovation of moving the /r/ into the initial consonant cluster.) When corrected on shruck, however, Bush quickly turned it into an absurdist joke: "You might have shirked; I shrucked." That vaguely reminds me of the "irregular verb" exercises on the British television show, Yes Minister: "I have an independent mind, you are eccentric, he is round the twist."
Bush's creative conjugating is also a bit reminiscent of the scene in 30 Rock's "Christmas Special" episode (discussed here by Eric Baković), where Tracy Jordan says to Liz Lemon, "What's the past tense for scam? Is it scrumped? Liz Lemon, I think you just got scrumped!" Shruck makes about as much sense as a past-tense form of shirk — though as far as I know shruck doesn't carry any salacious double entendres like scrump does. But perhaps it should.