may/might confusion

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Thu Jan 17 01:00:10 UTC 2002

On Wed, 16 Jan 2002, sagehen wrote:

#AG Ashcroft suffers from this increasingly common complaint, causing him to
#say, absurdly, that " had not the other passengers" aboard the plane
#prevented his doing so, the  would-be shoe-bomber "MAY have succeeded in
#bringing down the plane".....
#To which I say, had anyone not familiar with this story been relying on
#Ashcroft's  description for their understanding, they MIGHT  well have been
#pretty confused about the outcome.

Yes, but....

While I feel the same way you do, the language  is changing
under our feet. As you point out, the replacement of "might"
by "may" as the past or contrary-to-fact form of "may" is
"increasingly common", and it is you and I whose blank or
irritated looks are becoming the exception.

-- Mark A. Mandel
   Linguist at Large

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