Issue 188, page 3

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curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Guestmudgeon Sally may show her might

I detest the way everyone nowadays, journalism graduates included, uses may where they mean might. Example: "He may have been killed if he hadn't been wearing a seatbelt." Oh, is he dead then, or not? Or do you mean he's alive and kicking? If it didn't happen because of the "if...had not" factor then it has to be might. This error drives me nuts because it affects the meaning.

Our usage guru, H.W. Fowler, agrees with you in the example cited.  There are, of course, instances when may and might are interchangeable, and that seems to be what causes the confusion.

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

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