Honey, Obama shrunk his past participle


Speaking at his televised town hall meeting on gun control this evening, President Obama caught himself making a classic linguistic gaffe involving the past tense of the verb “to shrink”. I shrink, I shrank, I have shrunk; it shrinks, it shrank, it has been shrunk. But as Obama talked about the ATF budget in the past passive, he picked the wrong participle — as many people tend to do with the verb these days. “It is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank,” our President said, with a slightly faltering voice that hinted he knew he’d messed up. And sure enough, after skipping just a couple of beats, he provided one of the few moments of levity in the evening’s otherwise deadly serious discussion, when he corrected himself with a smile and an apology for his tardy self-edit: “Has been shrunk. It is a little late,” he said, realizing that he fessed up a bit too long after he made his gaffe, and eliciting the one and only peal of laughter from his audience, “but you knew what I meant.” We know what you meant, Barack. But we’re glad you realized and pointed out your mistake. Even you can be fallible.

See Glossophilia’s earlier post on the shrunk/shrank confusion that gets even the most articulate and eloquent speakers.

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