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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 19, 2008 / 18 Menachem-Av 5768

Modals and me

By Paul Greenberg

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It is a regular source of amazement, the things people will be amazed by.

For example, it was our privilege the other day to publish a letter to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette from one of our valued correspondents. The letter was a model of brevity. It was also a thorough provocation to any defender of the mother tongue in these parts, aka Suthuhn.

To quote the letter, in toto:

"I was utterly amazed to see 'the board might could use a little guidance' in a recent editorial. Might could use? What English grammar book did that come from? Shame on you. Your Arkie background is showing."

Ooo-wee.My reactions came fast and a little furious. First came a not very nice question: "You're not from around here, are you, friend?"

Second, I've never been ashamed of showing my Arkie background. I do, after all, work for Arkansas' statewide newspaper. My problem has been the opposite: trying to control my hair-trigger pride in Arkansas, which used to be known as the Wonder State long before we changed our license plates to read The Natural State.

Third and more to the point, when we asserted that a public board "might could use a little guidance," we did so — if you'll forgive my lapsing into English Teacher Mode — to modify the more definite, "could use a little guidance." There's a slight but significant difference in the two grammatical constructions for those who take pains with their language. At the time this board seemed to be on its way to realizing and correcting its mistakes, but we couldn't be sure. Hence, it mightcould have used some guidance.

Think about it. Suppose you're asking some old boy to undertake a job for you, like digging a drainage ditch or putting a new clutch in your old rattletrap. If he says, "I could do it," you've probably got yourself a deal. On the other hand, if his response is, "I might could do it," the negotiations have just gotten a mite more complex.

One of the great advantages of a regional dialect is that it's rooted in real life and real distinctions, like the one between "I could" and "I might could," each with a different degree of probability. To sacrifice such shades of meaning for no better reason than a false respectability is to lose sight of what language ought to be about: conveying meaning precisely, even about imprecision.

As for what grammar book I learned this construction from, the answer is: none. I picked it up by ear, by experience, from life, which can be even more instructive than a formal text. And usually is.

Most people, at least in these latitudes, will instinctively understand the difference between "I could" and the less certain "I might could," or even the upbeat "I just might could," which has a ring of positive acquiescence to it. But there's usually no need to articulate these linguistic distinctions — except of course to folks who, as they say in Charleston, come from off.

But if our critic must have some official authority for "might could," which in grammatical circles is known as a double modal, he could consult any authoritative guide to English usage, including Southern regional usage. The experts may refer to the double modal as informal or conversational, but that scarcely makes it less useful. It's certainly more nuanced.

To quote one linguist, "modal forms such as 'could' and 'should' are ambiguous in Modern English, as they have both an indicative and a subjunctive sense. ... The use of double modals in Southern American English fills a gap in Standard English grammar, namely the loss of inflectional distinction in English between indicative and subjunctive modals. Dialect or regional forms are often more progressive in gap-filling than is a standard language." Which I hope is a sufficiently technical explanation to appease our critic.

Perhaps the most common example of the greater precision of Suthuhn as opposed to Standard American Usage is the pronoun y'all,the second person plural. The less discerning standard usage has only youfor both plural and singular. Talk about a linguistic gap that needs filling.

I rest my case, y'all.

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