Sunday, December 21, 2008

More English: Might Could

This next is a phrase I use a lot. I don't even think about it. When you're north of the Ohio River, you know when you say things like "I reckon" and "you all", people notice. South of the Ohio, everybody says it so no one thinks anything of it. I'm very familiar with that. But once, up in Maryland, I got caught with a "might could" while talking about a programming problem. The person I was talking with took note, then asked me to repeat myself. I had never even given the phrase a second thought. To me it was common as rain.

Might could can mean anthing from "I'm not really sure" to "I'm absolutely positive". You have to know the personality of the person saying it, and the situation it which it is used.

"I might could do that" - again, the speaker may not be sure, or could be absolutely positive. It just depends.

"I might could git that for you, if you ask me real nice".

Might could. A nice phrase, especially if ambiguity is needed.

A note on my previous post. Sorry about gloating about how warm it was. It's now turning cold again, so that put me back in my place. I actually have no control over the weather. I might as well gloat about the sun coming up in the east.


Anonymous said...

From a blog:

There's an expression from the Southern United States that has always bugged me and it is "might could" which means may be willing and/or able to do something in the future. It is used like this:

"Are you going to do it?"

"I'm not sure but I might could."

Despite being bad grammar and redundant, my question is what is the correct response? Both the phrases, "I'm not sure but I might." or "I'm not sure but I could." just sound strange to me. Is the only way to use a longer phrase like, "I'm not sure but I might be willing to do it later."

Martin MY said...

Keep it up, quite strange this language to a Brit.

Happy Seasonal Greetings from Bulgaria. :)

A Valdese Blogger said...

Anon: Bad grammar & redundancy in grammar adds color to the minutae of life. "Might could" is definitely an 'in context' kind of phrase - it is ambiguous, its meaning can change with the way it's used or the situation. Your first two alternatives sounded strange to me also, and the last alternative, while exceedingly correct, just takes way to long to say. Especially for people who talk slow.

Martin: I'll come up with some more words and phrases to expound on. Thanks for reading.

& Happy holidays to everybody!