Anne Lambert annelamb at GNV.FDT.NET
Wed Jan 26 19:59:19 UTC 2000

My Old English dictionary has "maeg" 3 sg. preterite "meahte" as "to be
able" but adds "may' as having permission or power."  I think of "may" as
being more formal, and it is seldom  used now in the maning of getting
permission. Readers of the Little House books will remember h ow often
Laura says "Can I..." and is corrected by Ma: "May, Laura."  Now we use
"can."  I think of "may" and "might" the same way they are in OE: present
and past; but as Joseph Carson says "might" may (Ha!) refer more to a
particular action.

Joseph Carson wrote:

> Dear Bibiana Giocoli,
>           Welcome back to the list!  It seems you were reinitiated with
> no difficulties, but I wanted to point out that you've got the same
> habit as I do of spelling "subscribe" as "suscribe" (without the "b"),
> which computers often reject as an unrecognizable command.  As far as
> the difference between "may" and "might" is concerned, it is mainly that
> of using informal "may" as opposed to formal "might," although "may" can
> be interpreted more broadly as expressive of an intention to perform an
> act in terms of its possibility rather than from the standpoint of a
> firmly stated objective, whereas "might" has the same quality of
> indicating an action's potentiality, but with the added feature of
> specifying one's level of immediacy, urgency and determination to see
> the particular act or goal in question not merely stated as a possible
> outcome that can be performed by an anonymous person or group of people
> at some vaguely defined point of time in the remote future, but instead
> is going to happen at a particular place and time and will be performed
> by the person predicting its occurence, very promptly. For example, one
> can say, "It may become necessary to fix that broken window one day,"
> or "I might as well fix the broken window now, before it rains again."
> I hope somebody with a good dictionary contributes information relevant
> to your query, for my sake as well as yours, since I may well be wrong,
> while they might be right on this.  Let's switch that: I might well be
> wrong, while they may be right - it doesn't work so well this way, does
> it?  In any case, it is "muy bueno" to welcome an Argentinian, and
> Italian-Argentinian at that, to contribute their insights about idioms
> and dialects in your Buenos Aires context as they intersect with
> parallel expressions of  equivalent sentiments in our inelegant,
> unpoetic English "jergas o idiomas."  For instance, what's the name used
> to identify residents of your capital, Buenos Aires?  It has a
> distinctive dialect of its own, evidently, which you may be kind enough
> to share a few samples of in the list someday.
>              Ciao, Joseph Carson
> bibiana giocoli wrote:
> >    Part 1.1    Type: Plain Text (text/plain)
> >            Encoding: quoted-printable

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