Saturday, January 19, 2008

Might Could: A Question to Delurk (Maybe)

Today I pose a question to all of my readers: Is the expression "might could" grammatically correct?

For those of you in the Northeast, "might could" is a delightful Southernism that you hear quite a bit round these here parts. As in:

"I might could get that car fixed for you by Tuesday if the part comes in."


"I might could meet you at the movies tonight if mom lets me."

Marty & I debated the topic last night at a totally impromptu and completely delicious dinner at Willow Creek Inn (salad, ribeye, Mansour's special rice and the most divine little eggplant, tomato & smoked mozzarella stacks).

As I said, "might could" is an expression you only hear down here (well - I've only heard it down here). As for the grammatically correct part, we couldn't decide if it was

A) grammatically correct but just a bit awkward or

B) grammatically incorrect but nonetheless charming

I am of the belief that it's both slightly awkward grammatically but still a charming expression nonetheless.

By posing this question, I am hoping to Delurk a little (Very briefly, Delurking is the act of getting blog readers who don't comment ie lurkers to come out of the woodwork and comment. Click here to see what a real Delurker Day looks like), but I couldn't commit to a full Delurking because if you few readers I have left don't Delurk, I'll be terribly disappointed, suffer a huge crisis of confidence, and possibly have to stop blogging!

So, you think you might could comment?

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...


Marty said...

OK - I think that technically it IS correct grammatically. However, a little awkward in speak...

But I might could get used to it!


note: my spell-check wanted to change 'could' to 'be able to' so perhaps I am wrong...

Your Yankee Dad said...

The good news: might could appears on the Washington State University website. The stupid news: It’s posted by Professor Paul Brians as one of the entries in his book Common Errors in English Usage.

I applaud your delurking invitation, but I can’t imagine you’re going to get a heated discussion defending might could. But as long as you’ve driven this writer to comment, allow me to at least share some of the better redneck quotes I found when I Googled might-could.

First, here's a few things you might-could hear regular down there in Lincolnton.

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
Don't pee down my back and tell me it's raining.
Gooder than grits.
It's so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs.
It's been hotter'n a goat's butt in a pepper patch.
The roads are so icy they’re slicker than otter snot.
He’s so bothersome he’s like a booger you jest cain’t thump off.
She's uglier than homemade soap.
I'm just about as welcome at my in-laws as a hair in a biscuit.

And, of course, in any redneck search, you’re going to get to the bit that made Jeff Foxworthy famous (and vice-versa). I rounded these here up. Don’t know if they’re all his’n, but none of them is mine.

You know you're a redneck when...
1. You take your dog for a walk and you both use the same tree.
2. You can entertain yourself for more than 15 minutes with a fly swatter.
3. Your boat has not left the driveway in 15 years.
4. You burn your yard rather than mow it.
5. You think "The Nutcracker" is something you do off the high dive.
6. The Salvation Army declines your furniture.
7. You offer to give someone the shirt off your back and they don't want it.
8. You have the local taxidermist on speed dial.
9. You come back from the dump with more than you took.
10. You keep a can of Raid on the kitchen table.
11. Your wife can climb a tree faster than your cat.
12. Your grandmother has "ammo" on her Christmas list.
13. You keep flea and tick soap in the shower.
14. You've been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog.
15. You go to the stock car races and don't need a program.
16. You know how many bales of hay your car will hold.
17. You have a rag for a gas cap.
18. Your house doesn't have curtains, but your truck does.
19. You wonder how service stations keep their rest-rooms so clean.
20. You can spit without opening your mouth.
21. You consider your license plate personalized because your father made it.
22. Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand.
23. You have a complete set of salad bowls -- and they all say "Cool Whip" on the side.
24. The biggest city you've ever been to is Wal-Mart.
25. Your working TV sits on top of your non-working TV.
26. You've used your ironing board as a buffet table.
27. A tornado hits your neighborhood and does $100,000 worth of improvements.
28. You've used a toilet brush to scratch your back.
29. You missed your 5th grade graduation because you were on jury duty.
30. You think fast food is hitting a deer at 65.

rudecactus said...

I can't honestly argue with those who came before me. It's probably technically correct but it seems a bit awkward to me. That said, I grew up in Texas so I occasionally find myself saying "ain't". So, I ain't one to talk. Damn.

And, by the way, hi!

Big Tex - Houston, Texas said...

This was an interesting hit from a Google search on "might could." It's from a Seattle Times article published back in 2005:

The infamous double modal ("might could," "may can," "might would"), a hedging construction denoting less certainty than "might" alone, remains more elusive.

"It's very easy for people who move into Texas to pick up 'y'all,' " Bailey said. "It's a little bit harder to pick up 'fixin' to.' But 'might could' is another matter. We have found that unless you're born and raised in Texas, you don't pick up the double modals."

Although the article is about Texans they might could be talking about us Southerners anywhere and everywhere. REDNECKS RULE!!

Wendy said...

Kenneth G. Wilson (1923–). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993 says...

might could, might should, might would

These are double modal auxiliaries, limited to the spoken Midland and Southern regional dialects..... Outside their regions these are shibboleths.

So basically they're fine to use in NC, not so much in NYC.

Unfortunately, your delurking has so far unearthed only those of us you already knew were faithful readers. I hope others reveal themselves.

Love you.

rjdriver said...

I might could weigh in, but the high fallutin' yankee educated folks would probably make me wanna box their ears as I might could but it is colder here in Nebraska than my mother in law's shoulder when I asked her man to tote their daughter out the house

Anonymous said...

"Might Could"...I just don't like it. Very awkward!! Of course I say You's a lot! So what right....what's wrong?

jdixon said...

i think it is ok. my use would be something along the lines of: i might could have made it to BWs on Monday for trivia, but they aren't having it. i guess i'll have to go elsewhere if i get the chance.

Anonymous said...

I like it and ue it quite a bit.